McIlroy sends Match Play out in style 

click to enlarge Rory McIlroy
  • Ben Margot/AP
  • Rory McIlroy, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, closed out the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play on Sunday with a victory.
Sporting days by the Bay don’t come much better than this. Not for Tim Lincecum and the Giants. Not for Stephen Curry and the Warriors. Maybe most of all, not for Rory McIlroy and the game of golf, which again is a game that he is very much in control.

Oracle Arena in Oakland, AT&T Park in San Francisco and TPC Harding Park — in history and weather so much a part of the cool, gray city — offered us a Sunday beyond compare.

McIlroy, 26 today, offered us a champion who not only plays like one but acts like one. The kid is all class and smiles. But if you had his swing and future, why not?

McIlroy has come and gone now, very much atop the World Golf Rankings, leaving behind kind words — “Getting to know The City a little better” and “It’s been a great week” — and an impression that will last forever. His dawn-to-not-quite-dusk journey around Harding Park on Sunday, two and 1/18th rounds if you will, was good for the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play championship and our admiration.

Unable to complete his quarterfinal Saturday because of darkness — and thus unable to fly to Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight because the golf lasted so late — McIlroy watched the bout in the media room at the course, got to bed around 10:30 p.m. and arose at 4:30 a.m. for his longest day. And one of his most successful days.

“I’m a big believer in karma,” said McIlroy, the Northern Irishman. “I don’t know. Obviously, I think I gave myself a much better chance watching it in there than trying to make it to Vegas. That’s for sure.”

Karma works when you hit approaches on the green and hole putts. Which is what McIlroy did against Paul Casey, when they returned at 6:45 a.m. to continue the match suspended after 21 holes. Wham, bam, at the 22nd hole, but the first of a new day, a par 5, McIlroy was on in two and two-putted for the winning birdie.

Then some 45 minutes later he took on Jim Furyk in the semifinals and fell behind. There’s a reason McIlroy is No. 1. He raises his game when needed and finished birdie-birdie-eagle for a 1-up victory. That moved into the final against Gary Woodland, who won his semifinal 3 and 2 over Danny Willett.

You know what happened. Mac the Knife, winning the fourth and fifth holes with pars, the sixth and seventh with birdies, took the final by a score of 4 and 2, over Woodland, whose tee shots kept flying into the woodlands and rough.

So McIlroy had his 10th victory in a PGA Tour event and his 17th overall and a new respect for San Francisco and a golf course that responded to his play as he hoped. Unlike what happened at the Olympic Club across the Lake Merced reservoir when he played there in the 2012 U.S. Open.

“I never played Harding Park before,” McIlroy said. “I enjoyed it much better than the other course across the Bay. [He meant across the road.] Sorry if there’s any Olympic fans here, but as soon as I played the course, I really liked it. It suited my eye. I like big trees that frame holes.”

Woodland, the one-time basketball player from Kansas — Wabash University, that is — also found Harding Park more than acceptable, if like so many tourists, the weather bothered him some.

“First time here,” Woodland said. “It’s cold. But it’s a great golf course. The layout is awesome. It’s great match-play course, because there are a lot of birdies out there.”

But Harding won’t be hosting the Match Play for a long while again, if ever. The tournament, to be sponsored by Dell, shifts to Austin, Texas, pardner, while we cool our heels and anticipation until the PGA Championship comes to Harding Park in 2020.

McIlroy will be in his 30s by then. So will Curry. Lincecum already is 30. The days move quickly, but some will stay in memory.

For a fan by the Bay, Sunday was one of those days. For McIlroy, these were several of those days.

“It’s been a great week,” McIlroy said.

Do we hear a second to the motion?

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on Email him at

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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