A week which began with personal heartache ended in professional triumph as Rory McIlroy came from seven shots behind to claim a remarkable victory in the BMW PGA Championship.
Just four days after a visibly upset McIlroy revealed he had called off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki after the invitations had been sent out, the 25-year-old carded a closing 66 to win the European Tour’s flagship event on a dramatic final day.
McIlroy only took the outright lead for the first time with a birdie on the 71st hole and made another on the last to finish 14-under-par, one ahead of Ireland’s Shane Lowry, with two-time winner Luke Donald and overnight leader Thomas Bjorn a shot behind in third.
“It’s been a great day,” said McIlroy, who had missed the cut in each of his last two appearances in the event. “Going out seven behind I did not really expect to be in this position. Thomas was playing very well and I thought I would need something really spectacular to catch him but walking off the 11th tee I saw I was only two behind and thought I had a chance.”
In the aftermath of his split from Wozniacki, McIlroy had left his phone turned off and even given away his laptop, and he added: “When I was inside the ropes it was a little bit of a release. I was on my own, doing what I do best and it gave me four or five hours of serenity or sanctuary, whatever you call it.
“I can’t explain it. It’s obviously a week of mixed emotions. I am looking at the trophy saying ‘How the hell did it happen?’ I was asked in an interview how I feel and I don’t know. I feel happy that I’ve won. It’s been a weird week.”
Lowry had briefly been three clear when he started the back nine with a hat-trick of birdies, but drove into trouble on the 13th and ran up a double-bogey six, while Bjorn was left to reflect on squandering a five-shot overnight lead that brought back unwanted memories of his collapse in the final round of the Open at Royal St George’s in 2003.
But ultimately the week belonged to McIlroy, who kickstarted his challenge with an eagle from 15 feet on the fourth, his ball teetering on the edge of the hole for several seconds before dropping in.
Two bogeys and a birdie in the next five holes took McIlroy to the turn in 34 and left him three off the pace, but the two-time major winner chipped in for birdie on the 10th and also picked up shots on the 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th to seal his first professional win on European soil.
“It’s been 18 months since I won on the European Tour and to win the flagship event, I could not have asked for any more,” added McIlroy.