NORTON — Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated, with special significance given when the year ends in zero. But for all the party planning that’s involved, it’s the behavior of the invited guests that makes the occasion truly special.
So with the Deutsche Bank Championship marking 10 years at TPC Boston, the PGA Tour put together a show unlike any seen in these parts before. The game’s top 13 players, according to the world golf ranking, all were in the field, a first for this event.
Getting the biggest names and best draws is only part of it, though. Having most of them play well ups the stakes and the interest considerably, which is appropriate, considering this occupies a prime spot on the schedule and remains the second of four playoff events.
But having the world’s top-ranked player win the tournament by a single shot, with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Adam Scott also in the mix? Let’s call that a wonderfully unexpected present.
It probably wasn’t necessary, but Rory McIlroy validated his current standing in the golf world, shooting a final-round 67 on Monday and winning a star-studded Deutsche Bank Championship in comeback fashion. He wiped out a three-shot deficit to Louis Oosthuizen at the start of the round, then watched as the South African stood over a downhill 12-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff. It missed right, giving McIlroy his second victory over his last three starts, his third win of the season, and the inside track for player of the year honors.
“Today was great. I just wanted to get off to a good, solid start and maybe put Louis under a little bit of pressure,’’ said McIlroy, who joins Woods (2006) as the only players to win the Deutsche Bank Championship while ranked No. 1 in the world. “Once I got into the lead, I felt very comfortable and just tried to keep applying the pressure – hit fairways, hit greens – and it worked for the most part.’’
McIlroy finished at 20-under 264. Oosthuizen, who stormed into the lead with a third-round 63, found out again why it’s so difficult to back up a really low score with another one, especially when a tournament is on the line. He could only manage an even-par 71, shooting over par on the front nine (37) a day after he needed just 29 shots.
Woods (66) never got closer than two. Mickelson (66) and Johnson (70) tied for fourth at 14 under, with Brandt Snedeker (67) alone in sixth, another shot back.
Johnson, Snedeker, and a handful of others were anticipating a call from US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love on Monday night, hoping for good news. Love will make his four captain’s picks on Tuesday morning.
McIlroy already had secured his spot on Team Europe, and will be waiting when the Yanks host the matches later this month near Chicago. The way he’s playing, he’ll be tough to beat.
Nobody could do it this week. Trailing by three, McIlroy got off to the start he was looking for, making birdies at the second, third, and fourth. Oosthuizen also birdied No. 4 and still led by one when he walked onto the fifth tee. When he walked off the green, the lead was gone, his double bogey after a wayward drive opening the door for McIlroy, who had his own problems at No. 5 but still made a bogey, which tied him for the lead. A 3-foot birdie putt on No. 6, after a towering 9-iron from 154 yards, put McIlroy in front for good.
“Had a couple wobbles there coming in, but did enough in the early part of the round to have enough of a cushion to get the job done,’’ McIlroy said. “He didn’t get off to the start that he wanted to, and I got level with him pretty soon in the round.’’
Birdies at the eighth and 12th extended McIlroy’s lead to three, but Oosthuizen came back with birdies of his own at Nos. 13 and 15. Still down one, and with McIlroy in trouble on No. 17, Oosthuizen sensed an opportunity. But from 140 yards with a 9-iron, his approach got caught in the wind and missed the green, then Oosthuizen compounded the miscue by hitting a poor chip and missing the putt for par, extra costly when McIlroy also made bogey. The approach into No. 17 is the one shot he’d most like back.
“Rory at a stage was three shots ahead of me, and I felt like I did good to put myself within one, two holes to go,’’ Oosthuizen said. “A bit disappointed in the bogey on 17, but all in all, second for the week, I played really well. Rory really played so well the front nine. He made a lot of birdies and was pushing.’’
Add McIlroy to the list of impressive winners at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a group that began with Scott, who was 23 when he won the first tournament in 2003. Then Woods, Mickelson, and Vijay Singh twice. If the tournament ever honors its past champions, it’ll be a robust collection of Hall of Famers.
McIlroy is also 23, already a two-time major champion. He chose to play the Deutsche Bank Championship for the second time, adding to a tournament that was in a celebratory mood to begin with, even before producing one of the season’s best leaderboards.
When the sun was beginning to set on Labor Day, the world No. 1 was holding the trophy and wearing a victory belt, a new prize in recognition of 10 successful years. It was hard to tell who was enjoying the moment more — McIlroy for winning, or the tournament for having him win.