Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland gave an impressive performance on the course and expressed his unwavering backing of the PGA Tour off it.
McIlroy became the first three-time winner of the FedEx Cup with a sterling comeback in Sunday’s final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
McIlroy overcame a six-stroke deficit to slip past No. 1 seed Scottie Scheffler and claim the $18 million first prize.
With it came his reiterated endorsement of the PGA Tour amid the controversy involving the start-up LIV Golf Invitational Series.
“I believe in the game of golf. I believe in this tour, in particular,” McIlroy said. “I believe in the players on this tour. It’s the greatest place in the world to play golf, bar none. And I’ve played all over the world.”
McIlroy shot a 4-under 66 in the final round and ended up at 21 under for the tournament, capturing a one-stroke victory over Scheffler (73) and South Korea’s Sungjae Im (66).
The outcome means that McIlroy secured his third Tour Championship victory, one more than Tiger Woods.
McIlroy’s effort marked the third-largest final-round comeback on the PGA Tour this year. In Tour Championship history, it was the largest comeback, eclipsing Camilo Villegas’ rally from five down in 2008. He also began the week six strokes off the pace due to the scoring system, at 4 under to Scheffler’s 10 under.
Still, Scheffler had McIlroy’s full respect after they played together in the final pairing.
“There’s one thing I want to say. I feel that Scottie deserves at least half of this,” McIlroy said. “He has had an unbelievable season. I feel sort of bad that I pipped him to the post. ... It was an honor and a privilege to battle with him today and I’m sure we’ll have many more.”
McIlroy, who has 22 career wins on the PGA Tour, pulled even with a birdie on the par-3 15th hole from nearly 32 feet away. On the next hole, he appeared to be in trouble, but a pitch shot hit the pin and he was able to sink a 7-foot par putt. Scheffler took a bogey on the hole after hitting out of a greenside bunker.
Scheffler had a chance to regain a share of the lead, but failed to connect on a 9-foot birdie putt on No. 17. His only birdie in the final round came on the par-4 eighth hole.
“The money definitely didn’t creep into my mind,” Scheffler said. “I wanted to win the season-long title. I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”
Im was bidding to become the first golfer from Asia to capture the FedEx Cup. Even a double bogey on the 14th hole didn’t derail his chances, though settling for par on the par-5 18th turned out costly.
Xander Schauffele was fourth at 18 under after his 69 in the final round. Max Homa shot 66 Sunday to finish at 17 under, tied with Justin Thomas (68).
Defending champion Patrick Cantlay shot 70 and ended up at 16 under in a tie for seventh place with Sepp Straka (68) of Austria.
Scheffler was up six shots after the suspended third round concluded Sunday morning. McIlroy rolled in birdies on his two remaining holes of the third round to get to 17 under before beginning his final-round surge.
“I didn’t really give myself much of a chance teeing off today,” McIlroy said. “Being six behind, I thought it was going to be really tough.”
The margin was down to one stroke early in the fourth round after Scheffler bogeyed Nos. 1, 4 and 6. McIlroy, the 2016 and 2019 FedEx Cup champion, had a bogey and four birdies across the first seven holes of the final round.