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A Weekend of Drama… Rory McIlroy wins FedEx Cup in dramatic finish

September 27, 2016 by Stuart Barber

What an amazing end to the Tour Championship when McIlroy won both the Fedex Cup and the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, a private members club some 5 miles east of downtown Atlanta.

The delight of the man himself, golfers throughout the world, and not least team Europe, and their captain Darren Clarke, the week before the Ryder Cup, were tinged with sadness by the death of Arnold Palmer announced yesterday evening.

A giant in the golfing world, and rightly acknowledged as the man who persuaded players like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to travel to the British Isles and play in the Open Championship, it was his example at the start of the sixties, when transatlantic travel was not as easy as today that persuaded others to follow him. It was the start of the Great Triumvirate which continues to be revered in golfing legend today.

In remembering the golfers themselves, who make the Open the greatest Championship in world golf, one should not forget the part played by an irascible Scot, Keith Mackenzie, then Secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

McKenzie toured the United States as the newly appointed secretary reckoning that with increased global entries, the public's enthusiasm for the Championship would also increase, as would sponsorship opportunities, and prize money. Linking with Mark McCormack, the manager for many of the Americans, gave the impetus to propel the Open into its present status. Arnold Palmer won more than 90 golf tournaments, including the Masters four times, the U.S. Open in 1960, and the Open Championship in 1961 and 1962 .

"It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern day PGA TOUR without Arnold Palmer," said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement. "There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer. No one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it."

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf's greatest ambassador, at age 87 ," the USGA said on Twitter.  Golf Digest tweeted “ Arnold Palmer has passed away at 87 years old. Rest in peace, Arnie. You are forever a legend in golf and in life ”.

Just two of the flood of tweets, the world of twitter is literally buzzing with endorsements of this remarkable man and the life and exploits of Arnold Palmer are more than worthy of a blog on its own, but today I want to write about this last weekend's tournament and the culminating exciting and dramatic finish.

The US Tour created controversy when they decided that the two nines of East Lake would be played in reverse order! – The players didn't like it, or so they said before the event, but the dramatic finish to the tournament over what they played as the finishing holes vindicated that decision.

During the first three days World no.1 Dustin Johnson and outsider Kevin Chappell dominated the leader board. Chappell ranked 19 th on the Tour must have felt that final Captain's pick would be his as he teed off on Sunday. Even if he finished behind Johnson he must be assured of his place, However as one knows only too well – life's not like that.

As the last round unfolded it looked at first as though Johnson would hold off the challenge from Chappell, who has never won on the Tour. The round is described in detail in our magazine GolfToday, so suffice it to say that Johnson's round fell apart with an ugly 6 on the 12 th that lead him to finish with a miserable 73 and tied for sixth on 5-under. Chappell on the other hand carried on playing excellent golf and held the outright lead until bogeying the 17 th and dropping back to 12-under.

The drama of the day really began when Rory McIlroy holed out from 120ft at the 16 th to move to 11-under level with Moore and with Chappell then on 13-under.

Meanwhile Ryan Moore, who won last month, and playing with McIlroy had gone out in 31 and after a birdie at the 10 th had then played level par until a birdie at the 17 th moved him to 12-under one, then one behind Chappell.

At the 18th Rory McIlroy hit a marvellous second shot to the green and 2 putted to leave him on 12 under tied with Moore who could only par the hole also on 12-under with a closing 64. So the drama centered on Chappell who after 3 shots on 18 was left with a longish putt to win outright. Well he did not hole it and his 2 footer for par did a wall of death before dropping for a three-way tie on 12-under.

And so to the play-off – both Moore and Chappell had to take drops from ground cut up by spectators and could only play short of the water on eighteen – the play-off hole. McIlroy who had unleashed a 357 yard drive played a glorious iron to the green. Chappell took six and was out of it, and then Moore missed his long birdie attempt but made his par. History reveals that Rory to his obvious chagrin missed his birdie attempt and then the next as his second putt for the win somehow stayed above ground. However he composed himself to win on the fourth extra hole, converting a 15-footer to deny Moore before falling into the arms of his caddie, JP Fitzpatrick.  

“It was incredible. I somehow was able to tie it up in regulation,” McIlroy said. “My game is coming together in the right time. To win twice in three events feels pretty nice.”  

As James Corrigan the Telegraph's golf writer put it:-
“His boundless talent and courage earned him almost £9m in Atlanta on Sunday night. Yet as well as golf's richest prize and the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles, the Ulsterman gets to send Europe into this week's Ryder Cup on a high, boasting the hottest player in the game. ” 

After his six on the first play-off hole an interview with Kevin Chappell showed that he knew his hope of making the last Captain's pick had been blown away, after being so agonisingly close. On the other hand Ryan Moore had the consolation of getting that pick. Davis Love, the US Ryder Cup captain, named him as the final wildcard, meaning that the seventh best player in the world, Bubba Watson, is not deemed good enough for a 24-man match, just like Paul Casey - the Englishman who finished fifth here - in 2010.

Spare a thought, in this era of sportsmen's rich pickings, for Dustin Johnson who could only sit and watch – He could not believe it. McIlroy had just lifted a fortune out of his pocket, the difference between first and second in the standings amounting to more than £5m and, not only that, but the galleries were chanting “Rory, Rory, Rory” by the denouement. If either of the other two had won he would have scooped the 10$ million prize.

Well, when it comes to being partisan, genius knows no borders.   So it's now on to Hazeletine at the end of this week and let's hope the Americans don't make it into a war, with a hugely partisan and raucous crowd in Minnesota. As Jack Nicklaus said “Let the best team win but it's not a war” So said the man who conceded a putt that many would not have done to Tony Jacklin for a half in their match.

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