Rory McIlroy plays from the spectator village on the 16th hole during the final round of the Irish Open at The K Club. He found water twice on this hole leading to a triple-bogey 8. Richard Heathcote
There’s a plaque in the fairway on the par-5 16th hole at Ireland’s famed K Club, in County Kildare, that commemorates a 3-wood Rory McIlroy hit to about 40 feet for his second shot during the final round of his 2016 Irish Open victory. Seven years later, and only about 10 yards from that same plaque, the result was wildly different.
The Northern Irishman found the water — twice — and racked up a triple-bogey eight that ended his hopes of chasing down eventual winner, Vincent Norrman. Somehow, though, the finish to this Irish Open was just as entertaining.
In a weather-interrupted final round, Norrman came from the clouds with a seven-under 65 that launched him from six behind the lead beginning the final round to a second victory this season. He finished at 14-under (274), one shot ahead of Germany’s Hurly Long.
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Playing in the final group, McIlroy was tied for the lead at 13-under when he arrived at the par-4 seventh. There, he put the first of four balls in the water on Sunday — this one an approach from 158 yards from the middle of the fairway to make double-bogey. The World No. 2 found water again, this time a 136-yard approach that he pulled just left of the green at No. 11.
Still, when he sat in the fairway at No. 16, McIlroy was three shots behind clubhouse leader Norrman with three to play and par 5s among that trio. It was not out of the question for a four-time major winner to make up the deficit. With 267 yards to the narrow green, McIlroy flared a fairway metal into the creek. Then, after dropping in the fairway closer to the green, McIlroy fanned his fourth shot into the water. He airmailed the green for his sixth shot and, from the bunker, made eight. A birdie at the par-5 18th gave McIlroy a nine-under score and a tie for 16th.
Norrman, who won the PGA Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned Barbasol Championship back in June, couldn’t believe the chaos of the final round at the K Club. The former Florida State Seminole had held off a chasing pack that included McIlroy, 2019 Open champion and beloved Irishman Shane Lowry, as well as DP World Tour stars Ryan Fox, Grant Forrest and Thriston Lawrence.
“I’m just as starstruck as some of those fans out here seeing those guys, and to be competing against them is so cool. To beat them is even cooler,” the 25-year-old Norrman said. “It’s a world-class event, and it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done in golf I think.”
The victory came as Norman’s girlfriend, LPGA Tour pro Frida Kinhult, was also batting for a top-10 finish at the Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati.
Lowry wowed the crowds with a near albatross at the par-5 fourth. He fired a 224-yard approach that almost holed out and settled to an inch. “I hit almost a perfect 4-iron … and that got me going,” he said.
It got the crowds going, too, who were hoping Lowry could repeat his 2009 victory at the event he won as an amateur. Lowry went two-under from the eagle at No. 4 to shoot a final-round 68 and a share of third at 12-under.
“It’s hard, but there’s so many positives to take away,” he said. “Irish Opens are tournaments that are generally a struggle in the past and I felt like I was great out there all week this week. It’s probably one of the best tournaments I’ve played this year. The Irish Open is one of the greatest events in the world, but I’m obviously biased.”
Lowry, McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton are now off to Italy to rendezvous with the entire European Ryder Cup team for a practice round Monday at Ryder Cup host course, Rome’s Marco Simone. The team will then head to England on Tuesday for the DP World Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA at Wentworth, where Lowry will defend the title he claimed last year.
“I’m going back to defend at Wentworth next week and we’ve got the Ryder Cup in a few weeks,” he said. “It’s a very exciting few weeks, and [Sunday’s T-3] is a great way to start my few weeks over here. Hopefully I can keep it going.”