Golf is a funny old game. Entering into the weekend’s BMW PGA championship at Wentworth and The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial there was no shortage of enticing storylines. Eoin Purcell provides a round-up of just how these storylines played out over what proved to be a fantastic weekend of golf for Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.
The BMW is the flagship event of the European Tour and always attracts a very strong field. At Wentworth, Henrik Stenson had the chance to become the first Swedish player ever to become the number one ranked golfer in the world. Across the pond Adam Scott, newly crowned world number one, was a late entrant at Colonial as he wanted to experience what it was like to play as the top ranked player in world golf before Stenson replaced him.
The race for Ryder Cup places is getting into full swing and some notable names are currently on the outside looking in, so a big week at Wentworth or Colonial would have given them a needed boost. As if these plotlines were not enough, Rory McIlroy came into the week fresh from the announcement that his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was over. Before anybody had hit a ball on Thursday the media had plenty of stories to cover. However, all these stories proved to be just a warm-up act before an incredible weekend of golf.
Rory McIlroy creates headlines every week he tees it up. At 25 years old most golfers are content with gaining entry to some of the bigger tournaments, and if they are lucky enough to crack the top twenty then that is a welcome bonus. But Rory McIlroy is not most 25-year-old golfers. The two-time major winner has had 9 top ten finishes worldwide this season. Following his top ten finish at the Wells Fargo McIlroy stated that he is not interested in top ten finishes, they do not excite him. He is only interested in wins. McIlroy came into the BMW PGA Championship as the bookies favourite, as he does every week.
It was Thomas Bjorn who took the early command of the tournament with a blistering course record 62 on Thursday which left him two shots clear of Irishman Shane Lowry and 6 shots ahead of McIlroy. Perhaps Bjorn was seeking revenge on McIlroy in honour of his fellow Dane Woznicki. Bjorn’s high level of golf would see him enter the final round on Sunday with a five shot lead over his nearest challenger Luke Donald, and a seven shot lead over McIlroy. Teeing up on Sunday Bjorn already had one hand on the trophy. All he had to do was shoot 71, 72 and force somebody to shoot a 64, 65 to catch him.
It took until the 6th hole for Bjorn’s lead to slip away. Both Bjorn and his playing partner Donald took triple bogey sevens on the par four 6th hole, opening the door up for the field. Shane Lowry would birdie three holes in a row on the back nine to take a two shot lead and seemingly cruise to victory until an errant tee shot on the par four 13th cost him a double bogey and put him in a tie for the lead with McIlroy and Bjorn. From that moment on McIlroy was not to be beaten. McIlroy birdied his final two holes to post a 66 on the day and 14 under for the tournament. Both Lowry and Bjorn needed to eagle the par five 18th to force a playoff, but neither man could accomplish the feat. However, Lowry did finish his round in style with a birdie.
In what turned out to be a great weekend for the Irish Rory McIlroy claimed a victory that will surely re-establish him as firm favourite for the upcoming US and British Opens.
Shane Lowry made a welcome return to form in font of Paul McGinley in his push to make the European Ryder Cup team. Thomas Bjorn was let down by his final round but if he keeps up this form he will surely qualify automatically for the European Team in Gleneagles.
Henrik Stenson entered this week knowing that a victory could send him to the top of the golf rankings. A win would give Stenson top spot if Scott finished outside the top two, anything else meant that Scott would at least have a chance to retain his top spot. An opening round 68 put Stenson in contention but a pair of 71’s on Friday and Saturday left him 9 shots off the lead entering the final day. At the Crowne Plaza invitational Scott was tied for 11th, but only two shots behind the four joint leaders. It promised to be an exciting Sunday on both tours.
Stenson never really found the ignition switch on Sunday. It was only an eagle on the 17th that gave him his two under par round of 70, leaving him eight under for the tournament in a tie for 7th place. Scott knew teeing off on Sunday that a finish in the top 13 would be good enough to retain his position on top of the world rankings. It seems that the top 13 was never in Scott’s mind. Scott’s final round 66 was enough to get him into a playoff with Jason Dufner. Both men made par on the opening playoff hole. It appeared Dufner had the advantage on the second playoff hole when he hit his approach shot to 5 feet. Scott managed to hole his 14 foot birdie putt to push the playoff to one more hole. Scott birdied the next hole to seal the victory and cement his place as world number one, for now at least.
This weekend has given us a glimpse of what’s in store over the next 6 months. With three major championships, the Race to Dubai, Fedex Cup and Ryder Cup all on the horizon it promises to be an exciting summer of golf.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena
Featured Image By Craig ONeal (originally posted to Flickr as Adam Scott).