After arriving six shots behind Scottie Scheffler at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, the Northern Irishman was left behind by the same margin on his way to the decisive day. But when World No. 1 Scheffler suffered a combined worst three-over 73, McIlroy carded a 66 to single out American and South Korean Im Sung-jae at 21-under.
It marked the biggest last-round comeback in Tour Championship history, with Colombian Camilo Villegas recovering by five shots in 2008. Only Justin Thomas and Sam Burns have cleared bigger Tour deficits all 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 no one has ever done before,” McIlroy told reporters.
“Obviously the history of the FedEx Cup isn’t as long as some other tournaments, but to walk away as champions three times here is very, very satisfying and something I’m incredibly proud of.”
McIlroy was awarded $18 million in prize money for his 22nd PGA Tour win, marking a triumphant end to a great season tinged with major disappointment.
With wins at the CJ Cup and Canadian Open, the 33-year-old has consistently impressed with 10 top-10 results across 16 events. Nowhere was this form more apparent than in the majors, where McIlroy finished no worse than eighth across the four events.
With McIlroy comparing the campaign to 2019, where he also recorded three Tour wins, caddy Harry Diamond believed it was a fitting end to the season.
“On the 18th green today, [Harry] goes, ‘All the good golf you’ve played this year, you deserve this,'” said McIlroy.
“I already said this year that this season was very similar to 2019. I played great golf. I had some good wins, but didn’t pick a major.”
Player of the year?
Opening with a 65 and two 66s, the American’s win appeared to be a procession before three bogeys through the first six holes opened the door for McIlroy on Sunday, who – despite opening with a bogey – responded with a trio of birdies down the same course. .
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 tapped home at the last minute to win by par. After a brief celebratory fist pump, McIlroy went straight to Scheffler to hug him.
“Scottie Scheffler is going to win the Player of the Year, there is no doubt about it. It would have been fitting if he had concluded his breakthrough season with a FedEx Cup title,” said McIlroy.
“He maybe deserves this more than I deserve it. He played an incredible season. He didn’t have his best today, and I played well and took advantage of that.”
“It’s hard. You don’t really know what to say on the 18th green because he’s had such a great year, but he’s coming back and he’s a great player, and I’ve told him this won’t be the last time.” is that we are going to have these fights on the golf course.”
Despite his disappointment, Scheffler was equally graceful in defeat.
“I fought really hard today. Rory just played a really good round of golf. He made some important putts there at the end and he definitely deserved to win,” he said.
“I’ve had a really great year and I wanted to end it here with a win, but unfortunately I couldn’t do that. But at the end of the day it’s such a gift to play golf for money here, and I’m so thankful to be here.”