Arriving at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club six shots behind top seed Scottie Scheffler, the Northern Irishman trailed by the same margin heading into the deciding day. But when World No. 1 Scheffler’s joint-round worst three-over 73, McIlroy shot a 66 to beat American and South Korean Im Sung-jae by one stroke at 21-under.
It marked the biggest final-round comeback in Tour Championship history, beating Colombian Camilo Villegas’ five-shot recovery in 2008. Only Justin Thomas and Sam Burns have recovered from a bigger deficit on Tour in an entire season , winning from seven shots back at the PGA Championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge respectively.
“It’s really cool to do something in golf that nobody has done before,” McIlroy told reporters.
“Obviously, the history of the FedEx Cup isn’t as long as the history of some other tournaments, but to walk away from it three times as a champion, it’s very, very satisfying and something I’m incredibly proud of.”
McIlroy was awarded $18 million in prize money for his 22nd PGA Tour victory, ensuring a successful end to a stellar season that was tinged with major disappointment.
With wins at the CJ Cup and the Canadian Open, the 33-year-old continued to impress with 10 top 10 results in 16 events. Nowhere is this form more evident than in the majors, where McIlroy has finished no worse than eighth in four events.
With McIlroy comparing the 2019 campaign, where he also recorded three wins on Tour, caddy Harry Diamond believed it was a fitting end to the season.
“On the 18th green today, [Harry] said McIlroy, ‘All the good golf you’ve played this year, you deserve it,'” McIlroy said.
“I’ve said this all year, this season feels a lot like 2019. I played great golf. I had some good wins but didn’t pick up a major.”
Player of the Year?
Opening with a 65 and two 66’s, the American’s victory looked like a procession before three bogeys in the first six holes on Sunday opened the door for McIlroy, who — despite opening with a bogey — responded with a trio of birdies through the same run.
A superb birdie putt from McIlroy at the 15th followed by a bogey from Scheffler at the next hole proved decisive, as the Northern Irishman tapped home in the last to win par. After a brief celebratory fist pump, McIlroy went straight to embrace Scheffler.
“Scottie Scheffler is going to win Player of the Year, there’s no doubt about that. It’s perfect for him to end his breakout season with a FedEx Cup title,” McIlroy said.
“He deserves this maybe more than I deserve it, he played an unbelievable season. He didn’t have his best stuff today, and I played well and took advantage of that.
“It’s tough. You don’t really know what to say on the 18th green because he’s had a really good year, but he’s coming back and he’s a great player, and I told him it’s definitely not the last time we’re going to have those it’s against the golf course.”
Despite his disappointment, Scheffler was also gracious in defeat.
“I really fought hard today. Rory just played a great round of golf. He made some key putts there at the end, and he really deserved to win,” he said.
“I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. But at the end of the day, it’s such a gift to be out here playing golf for the money, and I’m very grateful to be out there.”