2022 Tour Championship leaderboard, winner: Rory McIlroy comes from behind to win $18M payout, third FedEx Cup

2022 Tour Championship leaderboard, winner: Rory McIlroy comes from behind to win $18M payout, third FedEx Cup

One could not discuss the future of the PGA Tour this season without Rory McIlroy’s name being on their lips. On Sunday at the 2022 Tour Championship, McIlroy reminded that he’s just as integral in the present. Despite trailing by as many as 10 shots at East Lake Golf Club in the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, McIlroy (-21) rallied Sunday to usurp world No. 1-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler, became the first three-time winner in the history of the FedEx Cup and banked the $18 million first-place prize that comes with the trophy.

Unlike some tournaments in which he digs himself into a hole from which he needs to fight out — which he surely did by kicking off this event with a triple bogey Thursday — McIlroy was in the conversation from the start at East Lake by posting 67s in consecutive rounds to open play. However, it was the third-round back nine that he concluded early Sunday that made him a true contender as Rory birdied three of his last six holes to card a 63 and claim his spot alongside Scheffler in the final pairing as he put pressure on the 54-hole leader despite a six-stroke deficit.

“I’ve been in the final group here three of the last five years,” said McIlroy. “I didn’t give myself much of a chance teeing off today. Six behind, I thought it was going to be really tough to make up. But [between] my good play and Scottie’s not-so-great play, it was a ballgame going into the back nine.”

McIlroy’s fourth round started with a bogey, but he pulled even with Scheffler after the Texan put three bogeys on his scorecard in the initial six holes. With McIlroy converting five birdies across his first 12 holes, the race was officially on as the two came around the turn. Another bogey on the 14th pushed McIlroy back behind Scheffler, but Rory immediately responded with an astonishing 31-foot birdie putt on the 15th that sent the crowd into a frenzy and again put him in a tie atop the leaderboard.

It was the par-4 16th where McIlroy almost came undone. Sitting in a fairway bunker after his second shot, his third flew over the green by nearly 30 yards. However, Rory’s ensuing chip dinged the flag pole, Scheffler missed a 9-foot par putt and McIlroy saved par to take the solo lead and become the first golfer to wrestle the top spot away from Scheffler this week.

Leading by a stroke entering the 18th, McIlroy watched as Scheffler found a bunker only to follow by bouncing his own approach off the grandstand into the rough. When Scheffler airmailed the green with his third shot from the bunker, that left McIlroy the option to play conservatively to the middle of the green and two putt for the FedEx Cup crown.

“I feel like Scottie deserves at least half of this today,” McIlroy first said after being introduced as champion. “He’s had an unbelievable season. I feel sort of bad … but he’s a helluva competitor. He’s an even better guy. It was an honor and a privilege to battle him today.”

Scheffler, a four-time PGA Tour winner this season and the world’s top-ranked golfer for nearly the entire year, tied for second alongside Sungjae Im; each took home $5.75 million, splitting the second- and third-place prizes.

McIlroy later mentioned the “battle of Georgia” between the two titans of the game as Scheffler got the better of McIlroy at the 2022 Masters at Augusta National in April. While the bounces went the way of the 26-year-old at the year’s first major championship (and for much of the year), on Sunday, the golf gods willed the man from Northern Ireland to victory, making amends for a season that featured four top-10 finishes in the major championships including a heartbreaker (in The Open Championship at St. Andrews) and left sourness in the mouth of McIlroy.

“It means an awful lot [to win the Tour Championship],” said McIlroy. “I believe in the game of golf. I believe in this tour in particular. I believe in the players on this tour. It’s the greatest place in the world to play golf, bar none, and I’ve played all over the world.

“This is an incredibly proud moment for me, but it should also be an incredibly proud moment for the PGA Tour. They’ve had some hard times this year, but we’re getting through it. That was a spectacle out there today – – two of the best players in the world going head-to-head for the biggest prize on the PGA Tour — and I hope everyone at home enjoyed that.”

Becoming the figurehead of the PGA Tour, leading the charge against the upstart LIV Golf Series and still being able to perform at the highest level on the biggest stage, the taste of victory was that much sweeter for McIlroy in Atlanta.

In a week which began with McIlroy and Tiger Woods spearheading efforts off the golf course to ensure the future of the game, it was McIlroy’s performance inside the ropes that again proved what the PGA Tour cannot be recreated.

Here is the breakdown of the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

T2. Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im (-20): The stars were aligned for Scheffler to claim history at East Lake. Starting the week with a two-stroke lead, building it to as many as seven and beginning the final round with a six-stroke edge, Scheffler simply let the FedEx Cup slip through his fingers. After playing his final six holes in 4 under to wrap up his third round Sunday morning, it felt inevitable this week would continue in the same fashion as his spring when he captured his four victories.

With a win, Scheffler would have secured the richest season in the history of the PGA Tour and only the fifth five-win season of the last decade, joining Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. He also would have put a stamp on what has been a breakout campaign. While the $12.25 million difference between the first-place prize and Scheffler’s T2 sum may sting, Scheffler will take solace in an astonishingly great season. He is likely to be named your PGA Tour Player of the Year and remains world No. 1, but alas, sometimes even the best fall short when the lights are the brightest.

The adopted son of Atlanta, Im was casually going about his business and tried his damnedest to recover from a major blunder on his back nine Sunday. He had gotten within one stroke of the lead on multiple occasions, but it was a double bogey on the par-4 14th that ultimately took his name out of FedEx Cup contention. With only one victory to his credit on the season, Im’s consistency finally paid dividends in the form of a shared second-place check. He entered the postseason with back-to-back runner-up finishes and rode this momentum into three straight top-15 finishes. It’s easy to forget Im only 24, and who is to say a Scheffler-type season is not on the horizon for him as he now hopes to lead the international team to a massive upset in the Presidents Cup in September.

4. Xander Schauffele (-18): The East Lake savant was one of three players to touch the lead during the Tour Championship, but Schauffele immediately tracked back once he did. Without the Saturday rain delay, perhaps we are discussing a different story, but in the end, the weekend was his eventual undoing. One of only four players not to break par in the third round, Schauffele was not able to keep up with his playing competitor, Scheffler, and eventually the rest of the field.

T5. Max Homa, Justin Thomas (-17): Homa, the man who claimed the first tournament of the 2021-22 campaign, ended his season in impressive fashion. Playing his final 56 holes in 18 under, Homa was able to climb from the depths of the leaderboard and into a seven-figure paycheck. The self-belief king should only continue this trajectory heading into next year as he has added two victories, a top-five finish at the Tour Championship and (more than likely) an appearance for the United States in the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow – – the site of his first PGA Tour win — to his playing résumé.

T7. Patrick Cantlay, Sepp Straka (-16): This week had all the makings of back-to-back FedEx Cup titles for Cantlay as the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year was just an adequate putting performance away from claiming the year’s top prize. Beginning the week in the second position at 8 under, the Californian was a mainstay on the first page of the leaderboard despite some struggles on the greens. Cantlay was among the leaders in both ball-striking metrics yet uncharacteristically ranked outside the top 25 in strokes gained putting out of just 29 players. He was statistically better than last season, but despite that achievement, the 30-year-old’s hardware haul of the Zurich Classic and the BMW Championship feels a smidge light.

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