CARMEL, Ind. – Rory McIlroy tightened his grip on a potential FedExCup championship on Sunday with another impressive showing in the playoffs.
He took the lead halfway through the final round of the BMW Championship and held off the strongest leaderboard in golf this year to to join some elite company.
McIlroy made back-to-back birdies around the turn to emerge from a four-way tie and seize control at Crooked Stick. He closed with a 5-under 67, making his only bogey on the final hole when it no longer mattered, for a two-shot victory over Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood.
Everyone knew Boy Wonder was a special player when he won the U.S. Open last summer with a record score. The last month has established him as the dominant player in golf, with three wins in four tournaments loaded with the best players — the PGA Championship and two FedEx Cup playoff events.
McIlroy became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour, and with his sixth career win, he joined Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win at least six times at age 23.
“I didn’t think everything would happen so quickly, but I’m on a good run at the minute and I want to keep it going as long as I can,” McIlroy said.
Mickelson and Westwood tried to chase him down on the back nine at Crooked Stick, only to mistakes when they couldn’t afford any.
Westwood, who lost to McIlroy in the semifinals of the Match Play Championship in February, caught him with a birdie on the par-3 13th. But the weak area of his game showed up at the wrong time — a poor chip on the 14th for bogey, another pedestrian chip on the par-5 15th that led to par. He wound up with a 69.
“I played with him when he was 13, and you could see it then,” Westwood said. “He’s just maturing all the time, as he will do. And he’s a very, very good player.
Mickelson, tied for the lead going into the final round, was one shot behind when his approach flew the green on No. 12 and he had to scramble for bogey. Mickelson made back-to-back birdies late in the round to get within two shots of the lead, but he badly missed a 3-foot par putt on the 17th to fall three shots behind. He closed with a 70.
Woods was never seriously in the mix. Five shots behind with seven holes to play, he made three late birdies and shot 68 to tie for fourth with Robert Garrigus (69).
McIlroy’s work is not done.
He is the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup finale in two weeks at East Lake, but any of the top five seeds can win the Tour Championship and capture the FedEx Cup with its $10 million bonus. The other four seeds are Woods, Nick Watney, Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker.
“Rory is putting on a show out there,” Woods said. “And we’ve got one more tournament.”
Any of the top 30 players who advanced to the Tour Championship have a mathematical shot at winning the $10 million prize. One guy who won’t have that opportunity is Vijay Singh, who started the final round tied for the lead with Mickelson. The 49-year-old Fijian fell apart on the back nine with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch to fall out of the top 30. A birdie on the final hole gave Singh a 73, but by then it was too late.
McIlroy finished on 20-under 268 and earned $1.44 million, pushing him to over $7.8 million for the season to effectively lock up the money title and all but assure being voted by his peers as the PGA Tour player of the year.
He has four wins on tour this year — one more than Woods — and that includes a record eight-shot win at the PGA Championship.
The top 30 players in FedExCup points are now finalized and will advance to East Lake. Just two players from outside the 30 starting the week managed to play their way in during their four rounds at Crooked Stick – Garrigus (who started 31st) and Ryan Moore (who started 35th).
Garrigus birdied four straight holes on his back nine to secure his spot.
“It’s gratifying all the work has paid off,” Garrigus said. “I’m going to Atlanta and I’m very excited.”
Added Moore: “There’s a huge sigh of relief right now just to be done and to have earned my way back in.”
Defending FedExCup champion Bill Haas and Kyle Stanley were the two players who dropped out of the top 30.
Haas was hoping to be the first reigning FedExCup champion to defend his title at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Instead, just like all the previous defending champs, Haas will not be at East Lake when the FedExCup is decided.
“Honestly, it seems like the same old story, something I’ve been doing a lot this year,” a disappointed Haas said after his round. “Under the gun haven’t been able to get it done. It’s something I’ve got to address and get better.”
Woods (2007), Singh (2008), Woods again (2009) and Jim Furyk (2010) were the previous FedExCup champs who either did not play in the Playoffs or did not qualify for the the Tour Championship the year after their win.
* The Tour Championship will feature twosomes with players being repaired after each round.
* In the six years of the FedExCup Playoffs, no FedExCup champion has returned to East Lake the following year. Defending FedExCup champion Bill Haas finished No. 32 in FedExCup standings to miss a chance to defend his FedExCup title.
*Three of the top five players at the BMW Championship have held the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Ranking including Tiger Woods (623 weeks), Lee Westwood (22) and Rory McIlroy (12).
Rory McIlroy – No. 1 in the FedExCup standings
* McIlroy earns his sixth career PGA Tour victory at the age of 23 years, 4 months and 5 days in his 53rd career start on Tour. In the process, he notches the 16th win of the season by a player in his 20s (12 players).
*McIlroy remains the top spot in the FedExCup standings for the second consecutive week. He also held the lead in the FedExCup standings earlier this year in week 10 and 11 of the Tour season.
* 2012 starts-made cuts-top-10s-wins: 15-12-9-4.
*McIlroy is the first player to win back-to-back starts on TOUR since Jonathan Byrd (2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
*McIlroy is the first player to win back-to-back events since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational).
* McIlroy leads the race for the Vardon Trophy and Byron Nelson Award with a 68.836 stroke average.
*McIlroy is the first player since Dustin Johnson (June, 2012) to win six PGA Tour events prior to the age of 30. Players under the age of 30 with three or more victories on the PGA Tour: Dustin Johnson (6), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3), Keegan Bradley (3).
* McIlroy has won three of his last four starts on the PGA Tour. The last player to win three of four was Tiger Woods in 2009.