Palm Beach Gardens, Fla: Sinking a series of pressure putts exactly when he needed to, Rory Mcllory won the Honda Classic with a 69 to claim the top spot for the first time in his extraordinary career.
Rory McIlroy was six holes away from winning The Honda Classic, an outcome that looked inevitable as he stood on the 13th green on Sunday at PGA National, when he heard the roar. And he knew it was for Tiger Woods. And McIlroy could tell by the sheer volume that it was an eagle. "I could hear the huge roar," McIlroy said. "And it definitely wasn't a birdie roar."
For Woods, it was a moment that finally put some color into that red shirt, a birdie-eagle finish for a 62, the lowest final round of his career to get within one shot of the lead and force the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland to play the final hour with little room for error.
But McIlroy answered with clutch shots of his own. He shot in the 8-foot birdie putt on the 13th for a two-shot lead. He gouged out a wedge from grass so deep he could barely see the ball to save par on the 14th, and he twice saved par from the bunker on the scary par 3s for a 1-under 69 and a two-shot win.
"It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge," McIlroy said. "I knew par golf would probably be good enough. To shoot 1-under in these conditions, when you go into the round with the lead, is very nice. And I was just able to get the job done."
McIlroy became the 16th player to be No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986, and the fourth player in the last 16 months since Woods abdicated the top spot after a five-year reign. McIlroy replaced Luke Donald and became the second-youngest player to be No. 1 behind Woods, who was 21 when he first got to the top after the 1997 U.S. Open.