Cash­ing in: McIl­roy wins big at Cup fi­nale

Four-time ma­jor champ earns 4-stroke vic­tory, lays claim to $15M prize

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Doug Ferguson

AT­LANTA — The crowd rush­ing to cir­cle the 18th green. The steady chants. It all sounded so fa­mil­iar to Rory McIl­roy at East Lake, with one big dif­fer­ence.

On Sun­day, it was all for him.

One year af­ter he was an over­looked by­stander as Tiger Woods cel­e­brated the miss­ing piece of his come­back by win­ning the Tour Cham­pi­onship, McIl­roy surged past Brooks Koepka and de­liv­ered a clutch par putt when he needed it to win the FedEx Cup and the $15 mil­lion prize, the big­gest pay­out in golf his­tory.

“It’s amaz­ing how dif­fer­ent things can be in a year,” McIl­roy said.

With two fi­nal birdies, McIl­roy closed with a 4-un­der 66 to end a marathon day at the storm-de­layed Tour Cham­pi­onship and fin­ished four shots ahead of Xan­der Schauf­fele. He joined Woods as the only play­ers to win the FedEx Cup twice since it be­gan in 2007.

He smiled at hear­ing the chants, “Rory! Rory! Rory!” from a gallery that came un­der the ropes on the 18th hole to watch the fin­ish.

“I must say, I didn’t en­joy that walk last year like ev­ery­one else,” McIl­roy said. “I never took the fight to Tiger.”

McIl­roy had more than the $15 mil­lion prize on his mind.

He wanted to win this out­right and was keep­ing score to the very end. The for­mat was changed this year to give top play­ers a head start based on par de­pend­ing on their stand­ing in the FedEx Cup. Justin Thomas was the No. 1 seed and started at 10-un­der par be­fore a shot was hit. McIl­roy was the No. 5 seed and started at 5 un­der.

He fin­ished at 18 un­der in the FedEx Cup fi­nale. His ac­tual score was 13-un­der 267, bet­ter than any­one else in the 30-man field.

It will boost him to No. 2 in the world be­hind Koepka.

“I’m go­ing to en­joy this one tonight,” McIl­roy said.

There also was a small mat­ter of pay­back. McIl­roy had a one-shot lead over Koepka in a WGC event last month in Ten­nessee but made only one birdie in the fi­nal round as Koepka blew past him to win.

They were in the fi­nal group Sun­day at East Lake, and McIl­roy got the best of the No. 1 player.

The fi­nal round turned on the sev­enth hole with a three-shot swing — McIl­roy made a 25-foot birdie, while Koepka lost his tee shot in the trees and made dou­ble bo­gey. There were con­sec­u­tive two-shot swings on the back nine, and then it was a mat­ter of hold­ing off Schauf­fele.

McIl­roy was four shots ahead un­til back-to-back bo­geys, and he was on the verge of watch­ing his lead shrink to one when he holed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th. Schauf­fele had to set­tle for pars, and McIl­roy fin­ished with a flour­ish.

He was the only player to break par all four days.

Schauf­fele shot a 70 to fin­ish alone in sec­ond, which paid out $5 mil­lion.

Thomas lost his way Sun­day morn­ing in the con­clu­sion of the third round when he took triple bo­gey on the 16th to fall four be­hind. He fin­ished with two birdies and a 68 and tied for third with Koepka, who ended an­other big year with a pedes­trian 72.

They each earned $3.5 mil­lion.

The marathon fi­nal day — 31 holes for McIl­roy and con­tenders — be­gan with big prom­ise for a wild chase for the $15 mil­lion prize. Four play­ers took turns atop the leader­board in the first 35 min­utes of golf Sun­day morn­ing, which in­cluded Schauf­fele’s first hole-in-one of his ca­reer with a 5-iron on the 240-yard ninth hole.

The third round had been sus­pended Satur­day af­ter light­ning struck a tree and in­jured six spec­ta­tors hud­dled nearby. Po­lice said they were treated and re­leased from med­i­cal at­ten­tion later that night.

CURTIS COMPTON/AT­LANTA JOUR­NAL-CON­STI­TU­TION

Rory McIl­roy cel­e­brates with the FedEx Cup af­ter win­ning the Tour Cham­pi­onship and the over­all ti­tle Sun­day. “I’m go­ing to en­joy this one ...” he said.

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