Published: Mon, March 19, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Free head helps Rory McIlroy end 18-month win drought

Free head helps Rory McIlroy end 18-month win drought

McIlroy's last worldwide victory came on the day Arnold Palmer passed away aged 87, and he was delighted to triumph in the event previously hosted by the seven-time major champion.

Rory McIlroy put on a thrilling spectacle of golf to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, birdieing five of his last six holes for his first victory in 18 months.

With all eyes on Woods all week, McIlroy flew under the radar and entered the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson.

The Northern Irishman hit five birdies over his last six holes, including a nerve-wracking clutch 25-foot birdie at the 18th to clinch his first PGA Tour title since the 2016 Tour championships.

If he can just be average with the driver as far as accuracy, he is going to win because the rest of his game is so solid.

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"Obviously, something clicked into place with my putting as well", said McIlroy, who benefited from some recent tutoring with putting guru, Brad Faxon.

After a long absence from the game while he dealt with a series of back problems, Woods looks like he is finally putting his once brilliant game back together a week at a time.

Seven-time major victor Palmer died aged 87 on September 25, 2016 - just hours after McIlroy claimed the Tour Championship and the $US10 million ($A14 million) FedEx Cup series.

DeChambeau fired a closing 68 to take second on 273, one stroke ahead of England's Rose, who fired a 67, and two in front of Sweden's Stenson with Woods and United States compatriot Ryan Moore fifth on 278.

Woods really looked like he was going to make it a ninth win at Bay Hill on Sunday.

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But before McIlroy could get to his second shot, DeChambeau turned up the pressure with an eagle at 16 to trim the advantage to one.

McIlroy stormed home with four consecutive birdies starting at the 13th, before draining a 24-foot birdie putt on 18 - prompting an emotional fist pump.

"I'm in a position where I can join that club and I would love to", he said. With his entire game working beautifully, Rory began to pull away from the pack on his back nine of the final round - just as Tiger was fading after knocking his drive on No. 16 out of bounds. "I kept saying I didn't need a win going into Augusta to feel like I had a chance; I just wanted to see signs of good golf, and thankfully I've been able to get both today".

Still in the early stages of his comeback from spinal fusion surgery and years of back issues, Woods result offered more evidence that he is getting close to his old form coming on the heels of a runnerup finish last Sunday at the Valspar. I figured I had to play the last three holes in 3-under to have a chance of probably forcing a play-off.

"I sort of felt like maybe [I was] complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts".

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