Irish Open 2016
Round 4 - Rory McIlroy seals three shot win
May 22, 2016
Rory McIlroy eagled the final hole to clinch his first victory of the season Sunday at the Irish Open, his home tournament where he's famously struggled over the years.
McIlroy's three-shot triumph over Scotland's Russell Knox and Bradley Dredge of Wales wasn't smooth sailing. But the Northern Ireland native prevailed with a 3-under 69, thanks to superior driving power that allowed him to birdie the K Club's first three par-5 holes - then demolish the competition with his final powerful approach shot.
His 253-meter (276-yard) second strike on the 18th landed within three feet of the pin to the deafening cheers of tens of thousands who had braved downpours and hail showers to witness the moment. McIlroy grinned and brushed away a tear or two as he approached the green.
When McIlroy calmly converted his only eagle of the tournament, he stood still and silent for a second. Then he pumped both fists in elation.
''To finish like that today, I'll never forget it,'' McIlroy said after receiving the crystal winner's trophy beside Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
Third-ranked McIlroy long has made winning the Irish Open an elusive priority, his past failures all the more awkward because he's also the tournament's official host and donates his prize money to his Rory Foundation children's charity. He had failed to make the Irish Open cut since 2012. His previous best was seventh place in 2008.
McIlroy looked in danger of squandering his three-stroke lead at the start of Sunday's final round as Knox, playing alongside him, putted impressively while McIlroy wasted opportunity after opportunity on the greens, including a miss for bogey from barely two feet on the par-4 11th hole.
When Knox birdied the 14th and 15th holes to seize a one-shot lead, McIlroy responded with arguably his greatest shot of the year - a go-for-broke drive across the River Liffey that landed improbably in the heart of the 16th green. As the fans roared their approval, a rattled Knox struck his only back-nine bogey as McIlroy two-putted for a go-ahead birdie.
''I was taking a risk. ... It was a huge turning point,'' said McIlroy, who added it was hard for him to keep his focus ''when there's 30,000 people roaring you on. The ovation I got when that ball landed on the 16th green sent shivers down my spine.''
McIlroy nearly birdied the par-3 17th as well, but simply laughed when the ball circled the cup and rolled a few inches back in his direction.
McIlroy, who now faces three majors in the next 10 weeks, described his Irish breakthrough as a needed psychological ''catapult'' to reclaim his best form.
''I felt I needed a week like this to kick-start something. No better place than back here at home in Ireland,'' he said.
Ireland's consistently inconsistent weather added another layer of drama.
Lightning storms caused four hours of delays Saturday that forced a dozen players, including McIlroy, to complete the third round at sunrise Sunday. His 21 holes of golf took nearly 10 hours to complete as Sunday's meteorological menu included wintry monsoons that left fairways and greens waterlogged and carpeted with hailstones, causing two more suspensions in play.
Round 3 - Rory McIlroy moves ahead
May 21, 2016
Tournament host Rory McIlroy insisted common sense prevailed in having play stopped on an already rain-interrupted third day of the Irish Open on Saturday.
McIlroy was three shots clear of his rivals, at nine under par and standing on the 16th tee near 2020 local time (1920GMT) when he became locked in talks with a European Tour official over the value of teeing up in the deteriorating light and continuing rain at the K. Club.
The four-time Major winner clearly did not want to play his tee shot and then have played called for the day after two prior lengthy stoppages.
Play had been suspended firstly for two hours and 18 minutes but no sooner had the players ventured back onto the course and there was a further one-and-a-half delay ahead of a 1955 local time (1855GMT) resumption.
McIlroy had moved to nine under par with a second birdie of his round at the 10th hole and on return following the second stoppage.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed and with McIlroy winning through as play was halted at 2028 local time, and with the third round to continue at 0730am local time Sunday.
“I was getting feedback that people around the 16th green were complaining how dark it was getting and then on the 17th tee what with all the trees surrounding the green,” said McIlroy.
“As well, I had trouble reading my putt on the 15th green so I didn’t know where to hit it and I said to my caddy: ‘I’ll just hit it straight’.
“But they made the right call as it was just getting so dark and I just was not comfortable hitting that tee shot at 16, and also at the thought of having to come back in the morning to play my second shot.”
McIlroy has finally put himself in position to end a six-month winless drought with a bogey-free 15 holes and three shots clear of Masters champion, Danny Willett who will restart his round also on the 16th tee at six under par.
“Today was a day just to hang in there and not make too many mistakes and that’s what I said on Friday that I wanted to do today,” McIlroy said.
“I’ve had no bogeys in 15 holes and that is good, and while I left a few out there I cannot complain having a three shot lead and with three holes to play to try and get into double digit figures.”
Scotland’s Russell Knox enjoys the clubhouse lead shooting a two under par and finish on five under par.
Knox had cracked the face of his driver in a round of 75 on day one and after borrowing a replacement, the current world number 38 added a second round 66 and is now in line for a hopeful top-three finish on a first visit to Ireland.
"I was pathetic the first day, brilliant on Friday but not too great today," said Knox.
Frenchman Sebastien Gros moved to a then share of second place at six under par when he eagled the 16th.
However, the 26-year old, who won twice on last year’s secondary Challenge Tour, then put three balls into the water at the par four 17th, including two off the tee and a third into the water guarding the green in taking a quadruple bogey eight.
The Frenchman ended with a round of 73 and a clubhouse share of 14th place.
Round 2 - Rory McIlroy chasing Danny Willett
May 20, 2016
Rory McIlroy achieved his first aim at the Irish Open: Making the cut for the first time in four years.
The next target for the world No. 3 is clinching his first win of 2016. He'll have to reel in Masters champion Danny Willett to do so.
McIlroy shot a 2-under 70 in the second round on Friday to be one stroke behind Willett (71) and Marc Warren (66) at the K Club heading into the weekend. Willett and Warren were on 8-under 136.
''The Irish Open is one of the most important tournaments of my year and I'd dearly love to win it one day,'' McIlroy said. ''I feel like I've given myself a great chance.''
McIlroy has had six top-10 finishes in 10 events but is the only member of the world's top five without a win this year. He rolled in five birdies in a round made tough by gusting winds, with two of the putts from 31 feet and 20 feet on the back nine.
''I just feel like there's something waiting there to click and when it does, I could be off and running,'' McIlroy said, ''and that could be the catapult or the momentum that I need to have another great summer.''
Willett, appearing in his second event since winning at Augusta National, couldn't emulate his 65 on day one and had four bogeys in what he called a ''scrappy'' round. He found the rain-slick greens and winds deceptive at times.
When one short-range chip shot rolled unexpectedly to the far side of the green, Willett could be overheard telling his caddie: ''That's just ridiculous.''
''Balls are flying miles,'' Willett said afterward.
Warren, ranked 132nd in the world, has failed to make the cut in six of his previous nine tournaments. He said he arrived at the K Club with low expectations of contending with McIlroy and Willett, yet had seven birdies in his second round - including chipping in at the par-3 eighth.
''Finishing with three birdies in the last four holes added a little shine to it,'' Warren said. ''I'd have taken pars coming in.''
English player Matthew Southgate shot 69 in the afternoon to move into fourth place on 5 under, a stroke ahead of Jaco van Zyl (72), Richard Sterne (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (68).
The cut was at 2 over.
Round 1 - Danny Willett leads with opening 65
May 20, 2016
Masters champion Danny Willett struck an opening round of 7-under 65 in the Irish Open to take a two-shot lead over home favorite Rory McIlroy on Thursday.
Willett continued his impressive form barely a month after he won his first major title at Augusta. He hit eight birdies and dropped his only shot on the 17th when his par-saving putt stopped on the edge of the cup.
He putted precisely despite blustery conditions on the 7,350-yard (6,719-meter) course at the K Club, an American-style parkland venue designed by Arnold Palmer that hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup.
Willett said it would be terrific if he and McIlroy remained close together atop the leaderboard through Sunday's finale to give Ireland's passionate golf fans maximum entertainment. World No. 3 McIlroy and Willett, No. 9, are the two highest-ranked players at the Irish Open.
''That would be good fun,'' Willett said.
McIlroy, the tournament host, said his solid performance provided only a little relief after his failure to make the Irish Open cut the past three years, a record he called ''extremely disappointing.''
''It's only one day. I still have to make the cut tomorrow,'' McIlroy said. ''Until I get into contention in this event and finally win it, I don't feel like any weight will be lifted off my shoulders.''
McIlroy appeared poised to take a share of the lead until he turned an eagle opportunity on the par-3 14th hole into a three-putt bogey. He dropped his head in frustration after badly overhitting his four-foot birdie chance.
He saved his best for last with a powerful tee shot on to the par-5 18th. His second shot with a 6 iron dropped within 10 feet of the pin for another eagle opportunity, but that putt curled short and right with the gusting wind. He settled for his sixth birdie of the round.
England's Callum Shinkwin and South Africa's Jaco Van Zyl shared third place, one stroke behind McIlroy.