The crowd rushing to circle the 18th green. The steady chants. It all sounded so familiar to Rory McIlroy at East Lake in Atlanta, with one big difference.
On Sunday, it was all for him.
One year after he was an overlooked bystander as Tiger Woods celebrated the missing piece of his comeback by winning the Tour Championship, McIlroy surged past Brooks Koepka and delivered a clutch par putt when he needed it to win the FedEx Cup and the $15 million prize, the biggest payout in golf history.
“It’s amazing how different things can be in a year,” McIlroy said.
With two final birdies, McIlroy closed with a 4-under-par 66 to end a marathon day at the storm-delayed Tour Championship and finished four shots ahead of Xander Schauffele. He joined Woods as the only players to win the FedEx Cup twice since it began in 2007.
“Any time you can do something that only Tiger has done, you’re doing something right,” McIlroy said.
He smiled at hearing the “Rory!” chant from a gallery that came under the ropes on the 18th hole to watch the finish.
“I must say, I didn’t enjoy that walk last year like everyone else did,” McIlroy said. “I never took the fight to Tiger.”
McIlroy had more than the $15 million prize on his mind.
He wanted to win this outright and was keeping score to the very end. The format was changed this year to give top players a head start based on par depending on their standing in the FedEx Cup. Justin Thomas was the No. 1 seed and started at 10-under par before a shot was hit. McIlroy was the No. 5 seed and started at 5-under.
He finished at 18-under in the FedEx Cup finale. His actual score was 13-under 267, better than anyone else in the 30-man field.
It will boost him to No. 2 in the world behind Koepka.
There also was a small matter of payback. McIlroy had a one-shot lead over Koepka in a World Golf Championships event last month in Tennessee but made only one birdie in the final round as Koepka blew past him to win.
They were in the final group Sunday at East Lake, and McIlroy got the best of the No. 1 player.
The final round turned on the seventh hole with a three-shot swing — McIlroy made a 25-foot birdie and Koepka lost his tee shot in the trees and made double bogey. There were consecutive two-shot swings on the back nine, and then it was a matter of holding off Schauffele.
McIlroy was four shots ahead until back-to-back bogeys, and he was on the verge of watching his lead shrink to one when he holed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th. Schauffele settled for pars, and McIlroy finished with a flourish.
He was the only player to break par all four days.
Schauffele closed with a 70 to finish alone in second, which paid out $5 million.
Thomas lost his way Sunday morning in the conclusion of the third round when he took triple bogey on the 16th hole to fall four behind. He finished with two birdies and a 68 and tied for third with Koepka, who ended another big year with a pedestrian finish of 72. They each earned $3.5 million.
Paul Casey shot 72 to finish fifth and earned $2.5 million.
The marathon final day — 31 holes for McIlroy and contenders — began with big promise for a wild chase for the $15 million prize. Four players took turns atop the leaderboard in the first 35 minutes of golf Sunday morning, which included Schauffele’s first hole-in-one of his career with a 5-iron on the 240-yard ninth hole.
The third round had been suspended Saturday after lightning struck a tree and injured six spectators huddled nearby. Police said they were treated and released from medical attention later that night.
The FedEx Cup counts as an official win, giving McIlroy three for the year. And he had 14 finishes in the top 10 out of 19 starts, the highest percentage of his career. Whether it’s enough was of little consequence. McIlroy had the FedEx Cup and the biggest payout in golf.
“I’m going to enjoy this one tonight,” he said.
LPGA Tour: In Aurora, Ontario, top-ranked Jin Young Ko closed with an 8-under 64 to win the CP Women’s Open by five shots over Nicole Broch Larsen.
The South Korean pulled away with six birdies on the back nine to finish the tournament at 26-under 262. Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Canada (69) finished seven shots off the lead in a tie for third place with American Lizette Salas (64).
Ko cemented the victory with birdies on four of her last five holes. She earned $337,500 of the $2.25 million purse with the win.
“She’s world No. 1 for a reason,” Henderson said. “She’s had an unreal season. I don’t even know, is it four wins now? Four wins on one of the toughest tours there is.”
PGA Tour Champions: Brandt Jobe rallied from seven strokes down, shooting a final-round 9-under 63 to win the Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash., for his second PGA Tour Champions title. Jobe finished at 18-under, three shots ahead of Tom Pernice Jr., who shot a final-round 65.
Jobe’s come-from-behind victory spoiled a bid by Fred Couples to win his hometown tournament. Couples held a five-shot lead going into the final round, but struggled throughout. He had two bogeys on the front nine and three on the back and shot a 4-over 76. He tied for third place with Jerry Kelly (69) at 12-under.
European Tour: Erik van Rooyen birdied the final hole to win the Scandinavian Invitation in Gothenburg, Sweden. The South African carded a 6-under 64 in the final round at Hills Golf & Sports Club to finish 19-under and a shot ahead of England’s Matt Fitzpatrick (64). Home favorite Henrik Stenson, who held a share of the lead after making a hole-in-one on the sixth, finished in a tie for third with Dean Burmester of South Africa after both men shot 66.
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