Having arrived at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta six shots behind seeded Scottie Scheffler, the Northern Irishman was trailed by the same margin on the decisive day. Yet as world number 1 Scheffler suffered a worst three out of 73, McIlroy carded a 66 to beat American and South Korean Im Sung-jae by one shot at 21-under.
He scored the biggest final-round comeback in Tour Championship history, beating Colombian Camilo Villegas’ five-stroke steal in 2008. Only Justin Thomas and Sam Burns overturned the Tour’s biggest deficits all season, winning by seven strokes to the PGA championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge respectively.
“It’s really cool to do something in golf that no one has ever done before,” McIlroy told reporters.
“Obviously, the history of the FedEx Cup is not as long as the history of other tournaments, but to come out of here three times champion is very, very satisfying and something that I am incredibly proud of.”
McIlroy was awarded $ 18 million in prize money for his 22nd PGA Tour win, ensuring a triumphant end to a stellar season tinged with great disappointment.
With wins at the CJ Cup and Canadian Open, the 33-year-old was consistently impressed with the top 10 results across 16 events. Nowhere was this form more evident than at the majors, where McIlroy finished no worse than eighth in the four events.
With McIlroy comparing the campaign to 2019, where he also recorded three victories on tour, caddy Harry Diamond believed it was a worthy end to the season.
“The green 18 today, [Harry] says, ‘All the good golf you’ve played this year, you deserve it,’ “McIlroy said.
“I have been saying all year that this season has been very, very similar to 2019. I played great golf. I had some good wins but I didn’t get a major.”
player of the year?
Opening with a 65 and two 66, the American’s triumph seemed destined to be a procession before three bandits through the first six holes on Sunday opened their doors to McIlroy, who – despite opening with a bandit – responded with a trio of birdies across the same ride.
A superb birdie putt from McIlroy on the 15th followed by a bogey from Scheffler on the next hole proved decisive, as the Northern Irishman batted home at the last minute to win on par. After a brief celebratory punch, McIlroy went straight to hug Scheffler.
“Scottie Scheffler will win Player of the Year, there’s no doubt about that. It would have been appropriate for him to end his rookie season with a FedEx Cup title,” said McIlroy.
“He deserves this perhaps more than I do, he played an incredible season. Today he didn’t have his best things and I played well and I took advantage of it.
“It’s hard. You don’t really know what to say on the 18th green because he’s had such a good year, but he’ll be back and he’s a great player, and I told him this is certainly not the last time we’re going to have these battles on the golf course. “.
Despite his disappointment, Scheffler was just as kind in the defeat.
“I really fought hard today. Rory just played a great round of golf. He finally made some key putts and he definitely deserved to win,” he said.
“I had a really great year and wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to do it. But at the end of the day, it’s such a gift to be here playing golf for money, and I’m so grateful to be here. “.