Rory McIlroy makes big statement with FedExCup win
Last Updated: 26/08/19 10:00pm
It’s not Rory McIlroy’s fault he won the $15m FedEx Cup on the same day Ben Stokes became English cricket’s equivalent of Ian Poulter at Medinah.
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On any other Sunday, it would have been Rory and his demolition of Brooks Koepka that muscled its way into the headlines normally reserved for Premier League football.
Not this time though, and if Rory ever sees a recording of Stokes imitating Poulter's mind-over-matter performance, he'll understand why. In the meantime, McIlroy can savour an end-of-season statement that says he's not done with the big ones.
In a week when newly-chiselled Koepka posed naked to celebrate being the undisputed not-so-heavyweight champion of the world, our pound-for-pound hero Rory put on a Rocky-like show.
Having been forced to give his biggest rival a two-shot advantage at the start of the week, the underdog landed a final-round knockout that wins him bragging rights until Augusta next April.
The purse for this epic showdown was the richest the game has ever seen, but the satisfaction of overpowering the strongest man in golf was worth much more to McIlroy.
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In the US Tour's August replacement for the final major of the year, he beat the winner of the re-scheduled PGA Championship and sent a warning to anyone thinking of writing his major obituary.
Having tried everything he could to win a major in 2019 and failed, he finally found a formula to out-muscle the muscleman. Okay, it wasn't a major, but it must have felt like one to McIlroy.
Especially when as early as the third hole, he failed to take advantage of a Koepka mistake and we all thought "here we go again". But just when we expected a repeat of what happened in Memphis a month ago, McIlroy discovered an inner strength that's been absent for a while.
He confronted himself and his opponent and found a way of reversing roles with Koepka. Rory became the dead-eyed, slow pulsed, tough guy and Brooks turned into a nervy, fidgety also-ran.
It only took 14 holes in the final round for McIlroy to see off Koepka but there was still a critical moment to come which would ask a serious question. With Xander Schauffele just two shots behind, Rory faced an eight-foot putt for par on the 16th. It's the kind of putt he hasn't faced with any confidence this year and we all held our breath.
When he holed that with composure and birdied the final two holes in grand style, the negatives of recent times were banished. All of a sudden, 2019 became Rory's greatest PGA Tour season and the richest any golfer has ever known.
No one needs to tell him something's missing and he knows he won't get a chance to put that right until next April.
In the meantime, Rory will come back to see us on the European Tour, starting this week in Switzerland and continuing at Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship.
Along the way, in between counting his cash, perhaps he'll find time to watch Ben Stokes single-handedly keeping the Ashes alive the way Ian Poulter did the same thing for the Ryder Cup on Saturday in 2012.
I'm sure Rory will understand why his win in Atlanta was rather overshadowed by events at Headingley, but he can take comfort from the fact that he batted pretty well himself in the final round at East Lake.
It wouldn't be stretching cricketing terminology too far to say Rory hit Brooks Koepka for six and proved that when he's at his best, no one can catch him.