Published Sunday, 25 May 2014
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland sprays champagne following his victory (© Getty)
The Holywood golfer came from seven shots behind to claim a remarkable victory as overnight leader Thomas Bjorn squandered a five-shot lead at Wentworth.
He shot a closing round 66 to win the European Tour's flagship event for the first time by one shot from fellow Irish golfer Shane Lowry following a rollercoaster final day.
It came just days after the heartache of calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
McIlroy only took the outright lead for the first time with a birdie on the penultimate hole in the tournament and made another on the last to finish 14 under par, one ahead of Lowry with two-time winner Luke Donald and Bjorn a shot behind in third.
Lowry had briefly been three clear when he started the back nine with a hat-trick of birdies, but drove into trouble on the 13th and ran up a double-bogey six.
Bjorn began the day five shots clear of playing partner Donald but both players ran up triple bogeys on the sixth to throw the tournament wide open, Bjorn taking two shots to get out of a fairway bunker and then finding more sand with his fourth shot.
That brought back unpleasant memories of the Dane's collapse in the 2003 Open at Sandwich, when he took three to escape from a greenside bunker on the 16th in the final round and lost by one to Ben Curtis.
I really wanted to win before going into the second major of the season and I could not have asked for a better way to prepare.
Donald responded with five birdies in his next 10 holes - chipping in on the 13th and 16th - but crucially failed to birdie the 17th which meant he needed an eagle on the last to tie.
Bjorn also needed a three on the 18th after birdies on the 16th and 17th, but after Donald had found the water with his approach, the 43-year-old's third shot came up well short of the flag to confirm McIlroy's triumph.
It's McIlroy's first win since December 2013 at the Australian Open and his first in the European Tour since 2012.
He said: "It's been 18 months since I won on the European Tour and to win the flagship event I could not have asked for any more.
"I knew coming in here I was playing well. I struggled a little on Friday but played great over the weekend. I was a little fortunate that some of the guys ahead of me made mistakes and I took advantage of it.
"My caddie JP (Fitzgerald) set me the target of 15 under today. I didn't quite get there but 14 under was enough."
The win comes less than three weeks before the start of the US Open next month.
Sports Minister Caral Ní Chuilín said: "This is a wonderful success for Rory and is all the more remarkable coming at the end of what has been a traumatic week for him."
McIlroy's latest win sees him move up four places in the world rankings to number six, leaving him feeling positive about the Ryder Cup in September.
"My Ryder Cup place is hopefully secure now and if not Captain McGinley might be nice to me and give me a pick," McIlroy added.
"This win is a great spring board for the rest of the year, the Ryder Cup, world ranking points and the Race to Dubai."
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