x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

2013 breakthrough arrives at last for McIlroy

Dramatic victory denies home favourite Scott the Australian Triple Crown

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates after winning the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club on Sunday. Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates after winning the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club on Sunday. Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

Double major-winner Rory McIlroy secured his first tournament victory of 2013 on Sunday with a birdie on the final hole of the Australian Open to edge home favourite Adam Scott.

Scott was leading by a stroke with one hole to play and was set to become the second player to capture the Australian Triple Crown.

However, the world No 2 bogeyed the last and McIlroy holed a 16-foot birdie putt for a 66 to win at 18-under at Royal Sydney, becoming only the second European to win the event.

Scott said he misjudged the wind and took too much club on his approach shot on the 18th, blowing his bid to add the Open title to his victories at the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Masters. He shot 71 in the final round.

“I am gutted. I felt like I never had a better chance to win the Australian Open,” said Scott, who played in the final group with McIlroy.

“It was going to be a tough day. Rory made his move and I just couldn’t get my putts in.”

The Masters champion’s error on the 18th opened the door for McIlroy, who said the Australian “gave me a couple of lifelines and I was able to take advantage of that on the last”.

McIlroy had struggled for much of the year, and he walked off the course in frustration in Florida in March. He has dropped from first to sixth in the world rankings since January.

But his play has picked up in the fall, including a strong showing in Dubai two weeks ago.

“While I am sorry to ruin Scotty’s chance at winning the Triple Crown, I have just felt since September in a better [state] mentally these few weeks, with some things off the course,” McIlroy said.

“Overall, I just felt everything was coming together the way I wanted it to. It’s been a frustrating year, but I’ve worked hard and it’s been a process trying to get back to winning golf tournaments again, and it was nice to do that this week.”

Scott started the final round with a comfortable four-shot lead over second-place McIlroy, but an eagle on the seventh closed the gap and the Northern Irishman drew level with a birdie on the eighth.

Going into the last, Scott was one ahead again but his second shot ran through the green. His third went 20 feet past the flag before two putts meant a bogey five.

“I am disappointed to make that error up the last and open the door for Rory,” said Scott, who had numerous chances to sew up the title with birdie putts. “I was trying to keep the door closed all day, but nothing was going my way on the greens today.

“I could have put this thing away early on if the putter was behaving how it should have.”

After taking 23 putts in setting a course-record 62 on Thursday, Scott needed a cringeworthy 35 putts during the last round.

The win was McIlroy’s 11th worldwide and only his second outside of the European and PGA Tours. He had not won since the European Tour’s Dubai season finale last year, 54 weeks ago.

Australia’s John Senden, the 2006 Australian Open champion, shot 66 to finish in third place at 11 under.