Flashback: Rory McIlroy ends victory drought with 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational win
Last Updated: 05/03/19 9:36am
Rory McIlroy ended an 18-month victory drought with a "special" win in the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last March.
The Northern Irishman's previous tournament success had come in the Tour Championship on September 25, 2016, the day seven-time major winner Palmer died at the age of 87.
McIlroy was quick to pay tribute to Palmer, who brought the tournament to his Bay Hill Club in 1979 and turned it into one of the leading events on the PGA Tour, after wrapping up his three-shot victory.
"It's ironic to think that the last time I won was when Arnie passed away," he said. "To be able to create my own little piece of history on the 18th green here was pretty special.
"I'm just so happy to be back in the winner's circle again and win a tournament that has Arnold Palmer's name on it, someone that means so much to us in the game of golf."
McIlroy, then aged 28, was not in the best of form coming into last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational after finishing a lowly 59th at the Honda Classic and missing the cut at the Valspar Championship.
He made a decent enough start at Bay Hill, though, with a three-under 69, although some of the gloss was taken off his round when he made a double-bogey six at the last after pulling a three-wood out of bounds off the tee.
That left McIlroy five shots off the early pace which was set by Henrik Stenson, who produced a putting masterclass with only 20 putts in his eight-under 64.
The Swede led by one ahead of American duo Talor Gooch and Aaron Wise, while Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner of the event, continued his encouraging comeback with a 68.
The second round saw Stenson remain at the top of the leaderboard on 11 under after a flawless 69, although he was joined by Bryson DeChambeau after he carded a 66.
McIlroy's round was a little inconsistent as he mixed five birdies with three bogeys for a two-under 70 which left him six shots off the lead going into the weekend, with Woods a further shot back following a level-par 72.
'Moving Day' proved to be a good one for McIlroy as he put himself bang in contention with a five-under 67 in the third round, which featured birdies on the 16th and 18th as well as an eagle at the par-five 12th.
That lifted McIlroy to 10 under and into third spot, ensuring he would be in the penultimate group on the final day, two behind Stenson (71) and just one back from DeChambeau (72).
Justin Rose also enjoyed a good Saturday as he matched McIlroy's 67 to take fourth place on nine under, with Rickie Fowler, who had shared the lead at one stage, four off the pace after he double-bogeyed the last. Woods was five strokes back in a share of 10th spot after a 69.
The final day belonged to McIlroy, though, and he seized the initiative with three birdies in four holes from the sixth, although all his big-name rivals would still have fancied their chances as they turned for home.
McIlroy then started his decisive move by holing from the fringe at the 13th for the first of four consecutive birdies, following up by draining a 20-footer at the 14th, chipping in from off the next green and making a two-putt gain at the 16th, before sealing victory with a 25-foot birdie at the last for an eight-under 64 which took him to 18-under 270.
DeChambeau eagled the 16th but missed from five feet to save par at the last to finish three behind McIlroy in second, with Rose third after three birdies in a five-hole stretch on his way to a five-under 67.
Stenson three-putted the 16th and dropped a shot at the par-four last to finish fourth, with Woods, who was within one of the lead at one stage, slipping down the leaderboard into a tie for fifth late on when he went out of bounds off the 16th tee on his way to back-to-back bogeys.
"It was awesome to feel the buzz of being somewhere around the lead going into the back nine and reeling off those four birdies in a row," said McIlroy after his victory.
"I played a perfect round of golf. I've missed it, I really have missed it, and to play the sort of golf that I played today under that pressure, I'm really proud of myself and just so happy to win."
Watch this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational live on Sky Sports Golf - coverage begins at 8pm on Wednesday with On The Range, with Featured Group first-round action from 2pm on Thursday.