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Rory McIlroy at Deutsche Bank Championship 2016: Monday Score and Reaction

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2016

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, tees off on the third hole during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament in Norton, Mass., Monday, Sept. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Associated Press

It had been a long, frustrating 15 months. Rory McIlroy sat watching idly as Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and then Henrik Stenson all zoomed past him on leaderboards and the world golf rankings. Fifteen months had passed since his last win on American soil.

The wait is now over.

McIlroy soared to the top of the leaderboard Monday at the 2016 Deutsche Bank Championship, shooting a six-under 65 to win his second tournament and first PGA Tour event of the year. He recorded five of his seven birdies on a sterling 31 on the front nine, putting pressure on a group of leaders who couldn't keep it together.

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Par45344453436
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Par4344443453571
Score4334443543465
PGATour.com

Kyle Porter of CBS Sports noted McIlroy's propensity for late-season greatness:

Kyle Porter @KylePorterCBS

Rory’s agent rt now: “Pls just once.” Billy Payne: “Sir, the Masters myst be played in Apr. We cannot play the 2017 Masters in Sept. 2016.”

The win is McIlroy's 12th win on the PGA Tour and 21st as a professional. His last win in a PGA event came at the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship, at a time when it looked like he was destined to have a Tiger Woods-esque reign atop the sport.

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Instead, the last 15 months have consisted of injuries and uncharacteristic struggles. McIlroy suffered an ankle injury while playing soccer that cost him time last summer, and when he returned, Day and Spieth had replaced him atop the marquee. He entered this week fifth in the world rankings, having missed the cut at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

His triumph came at the expense of Paul Casey, who struggled throughout the round with windy conditions. Casey, who entered the day sitting at McIlroy's winning score of 15 under, recorded four bogeys on his way to shooting 73.

It was a rough day for many of the guys who started the day thinking they were on the cusp of victory. Brian Harman, Smylie Kaufman and Kevin Chappell each shot over-par rounds as they spiraled out of contention.

With his six-under round, McIlroy tied Adam Scott for the best 18 holes anyone played Monday. Entering confident after a third-round 66, McIlroy nailed tap-in birdies on No. 2 and No. 4 before his round really kicked into high gear toward the end of the front nine. He birdied his final three holes to make the turn at five under, using his length and a few good approaches to put himself in strong position for red numbers.

His fans were flame-emoji pleased:

Rory McIlroy Tracker @Rory_Tracker

-5 31 for @McIlroyRory on the front 9. 5 birdies and no bogeys. He's on some absolute 🔥🔥🔥... Oh yea. And he's tied for the lead!!!

The front nine shot him to the top of the leaderboard, and he began creating separation by knocking down a 22-foot birdie on No. 12. Now separated from a fading Casey, McIlroy parred the next four holes—including a couple of near-misses—before making folks sweat a bit on No. 17. An ugly drive into the native area and a second shot into the bunker left him scrambling, and he eventually settled for a three-putt bogey.

That concern was quickly assuaged after he hit a cold-blooded pitch out of the sand to within less than two feet for a tap-in birdie on No. 18. He entered the clubhouse at 15 under and watched Casey miss a couple of long chances to draw closer, including a 58-foot eagle chance on No. 18.

The Northern Irishman now sits fourth in the FedEx Cup standings after entering the tournament in 38th place. He's yet to win the PGA's version of a playoff, one of the few accomplishments left on his career checklist.

If these last two rounds are any indication, the McIlroy of old may be poised for a late-season return.

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