Super Rory returns to top of the world
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
On the day that the golfing future of Tiger Woods was once more thrown into doubt, Rory McIlroy reclaimed his rightful position at the top of the world rankings with a superb victory at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods had to withdraw from the final round with a back injury - given that he has only just returned to the game following back surgery, there must now be serious doubts as to whether it marks the end of an astonishing career at the age of 39.
Not that this was of any concern to McIlroy, who birdied four of the first five holes to make up five shots on Sergio Garcia, the 54-hole leader.
The Spaniard started the day at 14 under par and was three ahead, but an early dropped shot meant that as the players left the fifth green, McIlroy was two in front. And it was a lead he was never to relinquish.
When he did miss fairways, he found a series of mind-boggling recovery shots to break Garcia's heart. Once again, however, the Spaniard took it all in his stride, and it was encouraging to see the players, who will be Ryder Cup teammates next month, chatting to each other as they marched off each tee.
The tournament had already been overshadowed by the withdrawal from all golf by Dustin Johnson, and the last thing we needed was for Woods to be struck down with a further injury. It was not immediately clear whether this was a recurrence of the injury that has blighted his season or whether it was a fresh injury. Either way, with the season's final major starting at Valhalla on Thursday, the omens are not good for the 14-time major champion.
McIlroy's first WGC title saw him overtake Australian Adam Scott at the top of the world rankings, regaining the position he last held in March 2013.
The 25-year-old played brilliantly to win The Open at Hoylake last month and was keen to show there would be no hangover when he arrived in Ohio.
"I'm really proud of following up The Open with a performance like this. I wanted to keep going and keep performing until the end of the season," McIlroy said. "It's great to come to one of my favourite tournaments of the year and to perform like this, I am pretty satisfied."
McIlroy opened with three straight birdies to take a one-shot lead. He never trailed the rest of the way and although Garcia drew level, McIlroy took the lead for good with an eight-foot birdie on the 11th hole. Garcia's final-round return of two bogeys against one birdie was some way short of his exploits on the second day. The Spaniard played the back nine in just 27 shots in his record-equalling second round of 61, and hit a total of 16 birdies over his first three rounds.
But his failure to press his advantage home means the 34-year-old has now won just three times on the 16 occasions he has held the 54-hole lead - and only once in America.
Woods withdrew after eight holes with back pain sustained jumping into a bunker as he played a shot on the second hole, in what was only his third event since his return from back surgery.
Justin Rose finished in a tie for fourth place, leaving European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley with a huge smile on his face.
Everybody now moves on to Valhalla - and it would take a very brave man to bet against McIlroy winning his third event on the trot, something that Rose failed to achieve at Hoylake.
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