Rory McIlroy won his fourth career major at the PGA Championship and the tournament-changing shot came on the 10th hole of the final round when he rolled his second shot on the par-5 to within 7 feet of the hole. But the shot would have never happened if McIlroy actually hit the ball the way that he intended.
Only moments before McIlroy’s shot, Rickie Fowler had sunk a 28-foot putt for birdie on the same hole to take a 1-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson — who missed a birdie putt on the hole — and Henrik Stenson. Fowler was also now three strokes ahead of McIlroy who watched from the fairway as the crowd reacted to Fowler’s putt.
Possibly feeling a little extra pressure, McIlroy then pulled out the 3-wood and decided he was going to go for the green from 283 yards away. The previous day, from 10 yards closer and in drier conditions, McIlroy laid up with a 6-iron.
The ball came off McIlroy’s club low and to the left and his face suggested that he was not happy with the shot.
And yet when the ball landed it caught a little hill, kicked just enough to the right, and rolled to within 7 feet of the hole.
McIlroy later he explained that it was actually a mishit.
In addition to getting lucky that the ball didn’t bounce into the rough, McIlroy got lucky because the green was elevated. While the ball was not rolling anywhere else on the course because of the heavy rains earlier (something that saved McIlroy on the 18th hole when his ball stopped short of rolling into the water), this area of the course was not as wet and McIlroy’s ball kept rolling.
At that point, you could tell the tide had turned. Just before McIlroy’s putt, CBS commentator Jim Nantz noted that McIlroy “hasn’t made [any long putts] today.” Commentator Nick Faldo immediately responded, “he will now.”
And he did, sinking his eagle putt, his first putt longer than 3 feet in the final round. Instead of being three strokes behind the leader, McIlroy was now within one shot and ready to make his run.
They say it is better to be lucky than good. Rory McIlroy proved on Sunday at the PGA Championship it is actually best to be lucky and good.
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