Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Rory McIlroy's throw of the dice proved to be a safe bet

Surprised: Rickie Fowler didn't expect to wait at the last hole
Surprised: Rickie Fowler didn't expect to wait at the last hole

Rory McIlroy has revealed how he gambled on rivals Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler not making an eagle in a frantic finish to the US PGA Championship on Sunday. With daylight fading fast following a rain delay of almost two hours, Mickelson and Fowler stood aside on the 18th hole to allow the final group of McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger to tee off.

That ensured they would have the option to finish the hole as is common practice, but what was not so common was McIlroy hitting his approach to the 18th as well before Mickelson and Fowler attempted to catch him with an eagle three on the par five.

"We were cool with hitting the tee shot," Fowler said. "We weren't expecting the approach shots. It changes things. Obviously, there is no waiting. Phil and I waited on the tee for a good amount of time and had to hit tee shots.

"In a way, they (McIlroy and Wiesberger) never got out of rhythm."

Mickelson, who came agonisingly close to holing his pitch, stopped short of criticising the situation in a television interview afterwards but was clearly agitated on the green.

"It didn't affect the outcome I think," the left-hander said. "It's not what we normally do but it's not a big deal. It's a courteous thing to let the guys tee off in case they blow the horn."

McIlroy was quick to acknowledge the act of sportsmanship after hitting his second shot into a greenside bunker and securing the par which sealed a one-shot win over Mickelson.

"They could have just left us on the tee box there and just played normally," McIlroy said. "But they showed a lot of class doing that.

"At that point in time, I had a two-shot lead. I saw both their second shots and I saw that they had finished down on the bottom right side of the green.

"I know Phil came awfully close to holing that third shot but at the same time, I knew par was probably going to be enough, and if I had to try and make birdie with that third shot out of the bunker, I would have been a little more aggressive with it.

"But I just sort of weighed up the probability and I was 75, 80 per cent certain that those guys were not going to make eagle. So it made my job a little easier."

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