Rory McIlroy out clutches Bob MacIntyre with ‘best shot I hit all year’ to win Scottish
Robert MacIntyre thought he’d done it. His ball sitting in the rough some 212 yards out and the winds whipping fiercely at the Renaissance Club’s par-4 finishing hole, the lefthanded Scot took a mighty swipe with fairway wood and hit arguably the shot of his life. The one they call Big Shot Bob stuck his approach to a few feet, rolled in the birdie and suddenly was the clubhouse leader at his home open, the Scottish.
Cheers could be heard from the seaside town of Oban, where MacIntyre is from, some 150 miles to the west. They were much louder around No. 18 green on Sunday afternoon in North Berwick. And as MacIntyre walked to scoring, his emotions poured out.
“I’ll never forget it,” MacIntyre said. “I had to take a minute coming off 18. I mean, that’s why I play this sport. That’s why I’m in the Scottish Open, and if not The Open, the Scottish Open will be up there with the event I want to play for the rest of my life. It’s one I’ve dreamed of winning since I watched at home, and I thought today coming down once I birdied 18, I thought, this might be the one.”
Of course, it wasn’t.
Two holes behind, Rory McIlroy was preparing to spoil the party. He succeeded, outdoing Bob’s big shot with two clutch birdies of his own.
First, there was the 191-yard tee shot that McIlroy darted with 5-iron inside 5 feet at the par-3 17th hole. When he sank the shortie, McIlroy was tied with MacIntyre at 14 under. MacIntyre had to wipe his tears; a playoff seemed imminent.
But then McIlroy ended those hopes, too. After finding the left edge of the fairway at No. 18, McIlroy had 201 yards to the flag. With the wind pumping into him, he flighted a 2-iron low and then crouched down to watch his ball run up to the hole before settling 10 feet behind it. According to stats guru Justin Ray, McIlroy gained 1.85 strokes on the field with his last two approach shots, which accounted for 95% of his strokes-gained-approach total in the final round.
“It came off absolutely perfectly,” McIlroy said. “Probably the best shot I hit all year. It was exactly the way I wanted to play it. When you hit a shot like that, I felt like I deserved to hole that putt to finish it off.”
After McIlroy drained the title-winning putt to cap a closing 2-under 68 and 15-under winning total, he leaned his head back, his smile a mile wide, and stared into the sky.
McIlroy entered this week with six straight top-10s since a disastrous missed cut at the Masters, but this was his first win since Dubai, just four weeks into the new year. And it came at the perfect time, too, as McIlroy now eyes a successful title defense this coming week at Royal Liverpool.
“It’s been a sort of long six months I feel since I won in Dubai,” McIlroy said. “I’ve given myself tons of chances, and hopefully this win sort of breaks the seal for me, especially going into next week.”
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MacIntyre, meanwhile, doesn’t leave Scotland empty-handed. The former top-50 player had dropped outside the top 100 in the world rankings before a T-4 finish in Denmark last week. A second straight near-miss has his confidence humming once again.
He just isn’t departing with the trophy.
Sunday’s final roars? Those were for Rors.
“Last week, I felt like I had two hands on the trophy and I let it go,” MacIntyre explained. “This week, I was nowhere near it. I wasn’t even within touching distance of the trophy and went out there and put in a performance.
“And yeah, just Rory McIlroy’s potentially the best in the world, and he showed why today.”