By Brian O’Hare
BIG BAD Rory McIlroy popped up and ruined Adam Scott’s Triple Crown party at Royal Sydney on Sunday – but perhaps the dastardly act couldn’t have been performed by a nicer golfer.
The very likable young Northern Irishman had been a big hit with the Sydney crowds all week and after the initial shock of seeing him snatch the 2013 Emirates Australian Open on the very last hole the pain soon started to be replaced somewhat with mixed emotions and even admiration.
Heartbreaking for Adam Scott, but as the US Masters champions said after the third round, if he didn’t win what would be his third Australian major in a row it would still just be a “sad end to an incredible year.”
The four week Adam Scott/Green Jacket Aussie roadshow was maybe just a couple of holes too long in the end. God knows how many autographs Scott has signed in the last month, how many photos he has posed for with members of the public, how many handshakes, how many special requests he has good naturedly acquiesced to.
Scott, who opened the championship with a course record 10-under 62, took a four stroke lead into the final round and had his chances coming down the stretch to close it out.
As birdie putts continued to lip out, McIlroy just wouldn’t give up.
He had drawn level on 16-under after an eagle/birdie double on the 7th and 8th hole but Scott was one in front for most of the back nine.
That was the case on the last where Scott posted his first bogie since the first hole.
McIlroy duly sunk his birdie putt to finish with a 6-under 66 on 18-under with Scott one stroke back after a 1-under 71, his worst score of the week.
McIlroy admitted feeling guilty sinking the putt but said all he knew was he didn’t want to be participating in a playoff.
Scott said he was “gutted” and largely blamed an unruly putter for the loss.
“I just made an error on the last, misjudged the wind and hit too much club into the last, so that’s the way it goes,” Scott said.
“I felt I did everything right. I was concerned about how I was going to hit it today because I haven’t been swinging the club very well for the last two weeks and I played really nicely and the putter didn’t behave itself. So it’s just the way golf is. I’m guttered. I felt like I never had a better chance to win the Aussie Open but it was tight the whole back nine. Rory played so good.”
Despite coming so close to a rare Triple Crown he was still planning on taking the positives out of the situation.
“Yeah, it’s been a great year,” he said. “Obviously I didn’t want to finish like that. If I didn’t play any good the first few days and played great today and finished second I’d be pretty chuffed going into Christmas, so that’s how I should look at it. I’ll get over this tonight and look forward to a few weeks rest and get ready to go next year.”
McIlroy was delighted to have his first win of the year in his second last event.
“It’s been a frustrating year but I’ve worked hard and it’s been a process, trying to get back to winning golf tournaments again,” he said. ”It was nice to be able to do it today.”
The 24 year old showed tact well beyond his years in acknowledging Scott’s recent efforts.
“Yeah, I think I knew what it meant and I guess just the way the tournament finished for him, having a one shot lead going down the last and having it taken away from you right at the very end, it’s tough. I’ve been in that position before. It’s not nice,” he said.
“But he’s had a phenomenal year. Masters champion, he won one of the FedEx Cup play off events. He came down here to Australia, won the Aussie PGA and then the Aussie Masters. Then World Cup last week and here. I think it’s a real credit to him that he came down and played all four weeks. It would have been very easy to skip a couple and maybe play up in the Gold Coast and play the World Cup or even to play the World Cup I thought was very good.
“So to play four in a row is a credit to him to come down. I think he sort of knew what responsibility he had coming down as Masters champion; the first Australian to win a green jacket, and that’s just the sort of guy he is. He’s a true gentleman and what I said at the prize ceremony there, he’s a credit to the game but he’s also a credit to this country. I was just lucky to be able to come out on top today.”
McIlroy agreed he had had enthusiastic support not just from the Irish members of the crowd but from many Aussie voices as well.
“The support this week has been phenomenal,” he said. “I know there are quite a few Irish people in Sydney and a lot of them came out to support me, which was great, but even the Australian crowd, the home crowd, obviously cheering for Adam but still very supportive of myself. It was great to play in front of a crowd like that. The atmosphere out there was fantastic, it really was. It was really enjoyable to be a part of.”
McIlroy has a history of returning to defend titles, so maybe he’ll be back in 2014. The Irish golfer wouldn’t fully commit to returning, but left the door open for a deal, depending on his schedule.
British Open Qualifying
2006 Australian Open Champion John Senden (66) finished in third position on 11-under and in the process claimed one of three spots up for grabs in the 2014 British Open Championship.
In only his second year as a Professional Bryden Macpherson (69, 9-under) also secured a return to The Open Championship, the Victorian last competing for the Claret Jug in 2011 as an Amateur.
Finishing at 9-under par alongside Macpherson, Rhein Gibson (69) will also make the trip to Royal Liverpool in July for his Open debut.2013 Emirates Australian Open Leaderboard