Date: December 01, 2013
Author: By Martin Blake At Royal Sydney

Wrap: Roaring Rory steals Open glory from Scott

Rory McIlroy stood on the 16th green at Royal Sydney today thinking he had blown a chance to win the Emirates Australian Open. He had flared his second shot to the par-five hole into a front bunker; his playing partner Adam Scott had smacked a long iron to the green and was putting for eagle. Scott led for a shot and had a hand on the Stonehaven Cup. McIlroy made par, and had to watch as Scott putted once. And again. And then again. Then at the 17th, a wicked par-three that troubled the players all week, Scott hit a superb long iron shot inside three metres from the flag, while the Northern Irishman was on the left fringe, 20 metres away. He made a great par-save but again he watched as the Australian size up a manageable birdie putt. He missed, sliding it just right, and McIlroy would breathe again. McIlroy would say later that he felt a sense of guilt about having pinched the Open from the hometown hero. But it would be easy to underestimate how well the former world No. 1 played on a day when he shot 66 to win for the first time in 2013. He and the Australian exchanged a warm handshake. “It wasn&apost awkward at all,&apos&apos he said. “Adam congratulated me on the last green, he said I deserved it. It&aposs hard not to feel some sort of guilt in the way I won it. But I always believed I could win. I came here playing really well, a couple of really solid. performances in China, Dubai and Korea. “I knew if I kept playing well, trying to get myself into contention … the pleasing thing about my golf, even all year, is any time I&aposve got into contention and had a chance to win a tournament, I&aposve always played well. I&aposve always played the best golf of the week. That&aposs pleasing, to play your best golf when you&aposre under pressure. You couldn&apost ask for any more than that.&apos&apos McIlroy began four shots back, knowing he needed &apos&apossomething special&apos&apos, and Scott immediately bogeyed from the front bunker at the first to open the door. McIlroy picked up four shots to par in the opening eight holes to erase the four-shot deficit, rolling in putts for eagle at the seventh and birdie at the eighth. Then it became a dogfight, with Scott making birdie at the ninth to regain the outright lead. It would stay at one shot all the way to the 18th, the wonderful dogleg par-four at Royal Sydney, and McIlroy hit two pure shots, leaving himself with a birdie chance as Scott pondered the deep swale at the back of the green where he found his ball. He began to think playoff. There were 20,000 people around that green and almost all were wishing for a Scott triple crown. “I knew his chip was tricky,&apos&apos said McIlroy. “I thought worst case scenario I&aposd have a putt for a playoff and all of a sudden I have a putt for the win, and I didn&apost want to go extra holes. All I focussed on was my routine. I didn&apost think about whether it was a putt to win or to get the first win this year. I hit it inside right and I hit it like I&aposd hit a putt on the putting green any other day. Thankfully it went in.&apos&apos McIlroy was gracious. “I guess it was just a pity how it ended at the last. He had a couple of chances to pull clear of me on 16 and 17. I thought I&aposd blown my chance on 16 hitting my second shot into the bunker and not making birdie there. Then at 17 Scotty went close to making birdie there and didn&apost. I just stayed patient. I knew anything could happen could happen on this golf course. If you just hit it into a tricky spot like Adam did at 18, these things can happen. Luckily I was able to make that putt when I needed it.&apos&apos At the end of a tough season in which he conceded the world No 1 ranking to Tiger Woods, experienced off-course issues and declined markedly, he had the win he craved. He is back, unequivocally so. “Since the end of September I just felt in a better place,&apos&apos he said. “A better place mentally with some things off the course, I definitely felt better with how my swing was, I just felt everything was coming together the way I wanted it to. It&aposs been a frustrating year but I&aposve worked hard. It&aposs been a process, trying to get back to winning golf tournaments again. It was nice to be able to do it today.&apos&apos At just 24, he admitted that he had struggled with his first real lull. “It&aposs frustrating because you know the level of golf that you can play, and you&aposre just not able to play to that level. You&aposre working hard and you&aposre trying to find the reasons why. You think you&aposve found the reasons and then you haven&apost. You try something else. It&aposs frustrating but I never lost belief. I never lost any of that. “You know, golf&aposs a long career, I&aposm 24 years old and I get a little impatient at times. If I actually took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, it hasn&apost been too bad a year. It&aposs obviously been made a lot better today with the win. It&aposs not like I plummeted off the face of the earth. I&aposm still 6 in the world. It&aposs not the level I feel I can play to, but I feel I&aposm getting back there.&apos&apos Queensland&aposs John Senden (11-under) would finish third, six shots back from Scott but doing enough to earn one of the three British Open Championship spots that were offered. Bryden MacPherson and Rhein Gibson took the other two and Brady Watt of Western Australia, who finished tied-14th, was the leading amateur. It was a remarkable Australian Open. The win might have disappointed the crowd around that green but they were generous with their applause, a fact McIlroy acknowledged. The good news is that, having accepted a hefty appearance fee to play this year, he will be under pressure to come back and defend. Scott v Rory take two has a nice ring to it. “We&aposll see what happens. I&aposm just going to enjoy this. I&aposve always tried to come back and defend, wherever I&aposve played. so hopefully that&aposll be the case.&apos&apos