McIlroy wins nail-biter in Deutsche Bank Championship

PGA champion takes tour’s second playoff event by one stroke

NORTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 03: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland smiles before he tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on September 3, 2012 in Norton, Massachusetts. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy pulled into the lead after six holes of the final round at the TPC Boston on Monday and held on for his third PGA Tour event victory this season.
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NORTON—Rory McIlroy, who began the day three shots behind third-round leader Louis Oosthuizen, rallied to take a three-shot lead with six holes to go, then hung on to survive a nail-biting finish to win the 10th Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday.

After he birdied No. 12 to stretch his lead to three shots over Oosthuizen and 21-under, McIlroy stumbled down the stretch and watched it erode to one shot when he got to the 18th, where he scrambled to reach the green in three shots and was left to chomp down hard on his putter grip after leaving a 19-foot birdie attempt dangling on the lip of the side pocket.

McIlroy, who opened the door with a bogey on No. 17, then watched as Oosthuizen, who took a three-shot lead after shooting a 63 in the third round, missed a birdie attempt from 15 feet that would have forced a playoff.

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“The putt, my putt to win, I was really trying to make it and still don’t know why it didn’t drop,” said McIlroy, who won for the third time this season on the PGA Tour. “But, yeah, I mean, I thought for sure he was going to make that putt and we were going to go play the 18th again.’’

McIlroy left TPC Boston for the next playoff event at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., after unseating the Barclays’ winner, Nick Watney, at the top of the FedEx Cup points list.

McIlroy shot a final-round 67 to finish with a 72-hole total of 20-under 264, while Oosthuizen shot a 71—an 8-shot swing from the 63 he shot on Sunday—to finish at 19-under.

Tiger Woods shot a final-round 66 and ran a 26-foot eagle attempt on 18 some 3 feet past the hole for a birdie that left him alone in third at 18-under (266).

“It hit my spot, I hit my spot,’’ said Woods, whose $544,000 payday enabled him to become the first PGA Tour player to reach the $100 million mark in career earnings. “For a putt that long, it was a triple-breaking putt. It went right early, left, then right late. I hit my spot. Unfortunately, I didn’t read it going that much to the right.’’

Dustin Johnson (70) and Phil Mickelson (66) wound up tied for fourth at 14-under, six shots out of the lead.

Hoping to build on the three-shot lead he took over McIlroy after shooting a magnificent 8-under 63 Sunday, Oosthuizen instead found himself trailing McIlroy by one shot at 18-under after six holes in the fourth round.

Oosthuizen, who set tournament records Sunday with his outward nine of 29, seven consecutive birdies on No. 4 through 10, and his 54-hole score of 19-under-197, struggled to get going early when he made par on his first three holes, while McIlroy, his playing partner, made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 to close to within one shot.

“Yeah, it was a good week, I played well,’’ said Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion who remained winless in a PGA Tour event on US soil. “Didn’t start well today, which made the back nine really tough. But all in all, I’m very happy with the week. There’s two more big events left and I’m very happy with the way I’m hitting the ball going into those tournaments.’’

Oosthuizen went to 20-under when he made a 21-foot putt for birdie on No. 4, where McIlroy missed a chance at eagle when his greenside bunker shot hit the pin and rolled 4 feet past for birdie.

Both players faltered on the par 4 5th hole.

Oosthuizen hooked his tee shot into the woods on the left and was forced to take a drop. He reached the green on his fourth shot and was forced to settle for double bogey when his bogey bid missed by inches.

McIlroy, meanwhile, two-putted for bogey. It left both players tied for the lead at 18-under after five holes.

Oosthuizen made par on the par 5 6th while McIlroy hit his 153-yard approach to within three feet for a birdie to take a one shot lead at 19-under. McIlroy added birdies on Nos. 8 and 12 to stretch his lead to three shots over Oosthuizen at 21-under, then overcame a bogey on 17 and held on to win after his 320-yard drive on 18 rolled through the fairway and into the primary rough, leaving him a hairy downhill lie and 105 yards to reach the pin.

McIlroy flew his approach to within 19 feet. Oosthuizen, whose 306-yard drive found a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway, wasn’t so fortunate on his second shot, which leaked right into the native rough some 68 feet from the pin.

Oosthuizen recovered, though, when he landed his third shot 15 feet from the pin. After McIlroy missed his birdie attempt and tapped in for par, Oosthuizen rolled his birdie attempt 2 feet past the cup, which enabled McIlroy to breathe a sigh of relief.

“I think the good start set me up for a solid back nine,” said McIlroy, who won for the fifth time in his PGA Tour career, the third time this season and the second time in the last three events. “There was a couple of shots on the back nine—well, I won’t tack back now, but if I could have then, I would have. But still managed to do enough, and as I said, delighted to gete this win, delighted to go to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, sets me up for a great next couple of weeks. So overall just very pleased.”