Marvelous McIlroy

McIlroy overturns six-shot deficit at FedEx Cup to make Tour Championship history

Rory McIlroy became the first golfer to lift the FedEx Cup three times after completing a sensational comeback victory at the PGA Tour Championship on Sunday.

Having arrived at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club six shots behind top seed Scottie Scheffler, the Northern Irishman trailed by the same margin heading into the deciding day. Yet as World No. 1 Scheffler suffered a joint-round worst three-over 73, McIlroy carded a 66 to edge the American and South Korean Im Sung-jae by a single stroke at 21-under.

It marked the largest final-round comeback in Tour Championship history, besting Colombian Camilo Villegas’ five-shot recovery in 2008. Only Justin Thomas and Sam Burns overturned larger deficits on the Tour all season, winning from seven shots back at the PGA Championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge respectively.

After FedEx Cup victories in 2016 and 2019, triumph at East Lake sees McIlroy edge clear of Tiger Woods — winner of the inaugural event in 2007 — as the only player to have secured the title three times.

“It’s really cool to do something in golf that no one has ever done before,” McIlroy told reporters.

“Obviously, the history of the FedEx Cup isn’t as long as the history of some other tournaments, but to be walking out of here three times a champion, it’s very, very satisfying and something that I’m incredibly proud of.”

McIlroy was rewarded with $18 million in prize money for his 22nd PGA Tour victory, ensuring a triumphant end to a stellar season tinged with major disappointment.

With wins at the CJ Cup and the Canadian Open, the 33-year-old consistently impressed with 10 top-10 results across 16 events. Nowhere was this form more evident than at the majors, where McIlroy finished no worse than eighth across the four events.

Yet having finished runner-up at the Masters in April and agonizingly letting victory slip through his grasp at the 150th Open Championship in July, McIlroy’s superb form did not reap the fifth major triumph he has been chasing since victory at the PGA Championship in 2014.

With McIlroy comparing the campaign to 2019, where he also recorded three Tour wins, caddy Harry Diamond believed it was a fitting end to the season.

“On the 18th green today, [Harry] goes, ‘All the good golf you played this year, you deserve this,'” McIlroy said.

“I’ve said all along this year, this season felt very, very similar to 2019. I played great golf. I had some good wins but didn’t pick off a major.”

Player of the Year?

For Scheffler, narrow defeat marked a painful end to a phenomenal season in which triumph at the Masters headlined four wins and 11 top-10 finishes on the Tour.

Opening with a 65 and two 66’s, the American’s triumph had looked set to be a procession before three bogeys through the first six holes Sunday opened the door for McIlroy, who — despite opening with a bogey — responded with a trio of birdies through the same run.

A superb birdie putt from McIlroy at the 15th followed by a bogey from Scheffler at the subsequent hole proved decisive, as the Northern Irishman tapped home at the last to win with par. After a brief celebratory fist pump, McIlroy went straight over to embrace Scheffler.

“Scottie Scheffler is going to win the Player of the Year, there’s no doubt about that. It would have been fitting for him to end his breakout season with a FedEx Cup title,” McIlroy said.

“He deserves this maybe more than I deserve it, he played an unbelievable season. He didn’t have his best stuff today, and I played well and took advantage of that.

“It’s hard. You don’t really know what to say on the 18th green because he’s had such a great year, but he’ll be back and he’s a great player, and I told him this certainly isn’t the last time that we’re going to have these battles on the golf course.”

Despite his disappointment, Scheffler was similarly gracious in defeat.

“I really fought hard today. Rory just played a really good round of golf. He made some key putts there at the end, and he definitely deserved to win,” he said.

“I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. But at the end of the day, it’s such a gift to be out here playing golf for money, and I’m just so thankful to be out here.”


One of the strongest fields of the entire season

One of the strongest fields of the entire season

Here are the starting positions for all 30 players at the Tour Championship

After 12 months, 44 events and tens of millions of prize money handed out, just one event remains on the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule — the Tour Championship. The annual event is hosted at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and welcomes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings, making it one of the strongest fields of the entire season.

The limited field isn’t the only unique aspect of the Tour Championship. The purse is the largest on Tour, with $75 million up for grabs, and the field starts with handicapped scores as well.

While it might be odd to see Tour pros begin the week on uneven footing, the handicap system is meant to reward players for their season-long performance in the FedEx Cup. Prior to 2019, the Tour Championship winner was not necessarily the FedEx Cup champion, and it made for some awkward dual award ceremonies on the 18th green. This system eliminates that possibility and ensures that the winner of the final event of the season is also the season-long FedEx Cup champion.

“As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan — no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event — can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said when the new format was unveiled. “And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.”

Last season, Patrick Cantlay began the week atop the leaderboard and held off a charging Jon Rahm to claim the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles.

Here are the starting positions for all 30 players this week.

Tour Championship starting positions

10 under: Scottie Scheffler

Eight under: Patrick Cantlay

Seven under: Will Zalatoris

Six under: Xander Schauffele

Five under: Sam Burns

Four under: Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka, Sungaje Im

Three under: Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young, Matthew Fitzpatrick

Two under: Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland

One under: Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Brian Harman

Even par: K.H. Lee, J.T. Poston, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise


One of the strongest fields of the entire season

What a way to get your first win.

Will Zalatoris survives wild ping-pong shot in playoff for first PGA Tour win, lead in $18M FedEx Cup playoff

Will Zalatoris forced, then survived a wild three-hole playoff on Sunday at the St. Jude Championship to secure his first win on the PGA Tour and the lead in the FedEx Cup Championship. The victory in the first of three championship playoff events gives him the inside track to the playoff’s $18 million first-place prize.

Zalatoris, 25, took the clubhouse lead at TPC Southwind in Memphis on 18 on Sunday with a 10-foot par putt to secure a 72-hole score of 15-under.

Sepp Straka followed and faced a chance to secure a win in regulation with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18. But his effort missed just high, and his successful par putt forced the sudden-death playoff with Zalatoris.

The two remained tied after parring 18 on the first playoff hole. They replayed 18 for the second playoff hole, with both players missing the fairway off the tee. Zalatoris hit his second shot off of pine needles near a boundary line and onto the fairway. He got up and down from there with a 13-foot, 8-inch putt to save par.

Straka, meanwhile, took a drop and a one-stroke penalty after his drive landed near a water hazard that would have forced him to stand in the water for his shot. Like Zalatoris, he saved par to force the third and final playoff hole at par-3 11th. That’s when the fireworks really started.

Zalatoris’ approach shot to the waterside green came up short and right. But he averted disaster by the most dramatic of margins, as his ball bounced softly off a waterside wall then wedged in between the wall and the greenside rough — instead of back into the water.

Straka wasn’t as fortunate. His approach was likewise short and right. But his bounced back into the water.

Straka sailed the green into a bunker out of the drop zone, making what would have been a difficult decision for Zalatoris considerably easier. Instead of hitting out of this untenable lie, Zalatoris opted to take a penalty and shoot from the same drop zone as Straka.

Unlike Straka, he found the green with his shot from the drop zone and proceeded to make his bogey putt to secure his first Tour victory.

With the win, he moved up 11 places into first place in the FedEx Cup standings with two playoff events remaining. He did so after shooting a 1-over 71 on Thursday that left him nine strokes behind the leader and at risk of missing the cut. But he followed up with a 63 on Friday to make the weekend, before shooting 65 on Saturday and 66 on Sunday to force the playoff.

The top 70 remaining players advance to next week’s BMW Championship at Delaware’s Wilmington Country Club. The top 30 from there advance to the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, where the winner will take home the first-place $18 million prize.