In his almighty fury, Rory McIlroy acted more like Hulk Hogan than Ben Hogan. These were unprecedented shirt-ripping scenes more befitting to World Wrestling Entertainment than the European Tour, as the raging Northern Irishman tore apart his Nike top when his desert meltdown handed America a piece of golfing history.
Having looked impervious all week, McIlroy’s temper boiled over on his way into the recorder’s hut, as his upper garment was made to suffer leaving his chest exposed. With a red face and clearly not dressed to speak in front of the TV cameras, Mclroy was quickly whizzed away on a buggy.
Meanwhile, Collin Morikawa was celebrating a $4m (£3m) payday as the first US player ever to win the European Tour’s order of merit.
What a bizarre, ridiculous climax this was. So impressive and clinical from Morikawa – and so calamitous and, yes, juvenile from 32-year-old McIlroy. The pair were level when McIlroy had only four to play, but in that crazy final hour the deficit extended to five, with McIlroy shooting a 74 and falling into a share for sixth.
In fairness to McIlroy, the histrionics were triggered by a wretched piece of fortune. Yet from his incredibly bad break on the 15th – where his approach ricocheted off the flag into a bunker – it unravelled quite horrifically and questions will inevitably be asked about his reaction to a bad break – and that was even before his Incredible Hulk impression.
Perhaps hackers will fully understand the collapse, but McIlroy’s mission is to be the consummate pro and after his victory in Las Vegas last month, the game had hoped and believed their golden talent was back on track – both in his swing and his mind. However, he could not stop that moment of extreme golfing cruelty from causing mayhem in his focus.
When that beautifully struck wedge was in the air, he would have felt so confident of a third DP World Tour Championship. McIlroy’s ball was destined for holeside and a birdie surely awaited to take him one clear of Morikawa, who was on the par-three 17th.
McIlroy was appropriately aghast at the result and failed dismally to recover his poise in time. The bunker shot was decidedly mediocre, coming to rest on the apron of the putting surface. A two-putt bogey.
At this stage, Morikawa was lining up the decisive 15-footer, with the Race to Dubai title had already been confirmed. England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, the defending DP World champion, had threatened to make it a tense finale to the year-long campaign when playing his first 11 holes in seven-under to assume the advantage in the tournament.
However, in terms of the order of merit, the young Yorkshireman not only needed to win but for Morikawa to finish outside the top nine and the reigning Open champion never looked likely to stumble.
Instead, after Fitzpatrick closed out with a 66 for a 14-under total and a share of second with Swede Alexander Bjork, Morikawa went on his charge, determined to scoop all the spoils on offer. The $3m for the win and the $1m for the bonus.
Morikawa’s fist pump on that penultimate green showed that the job was almost done – and he proceeded to hit the par-five 18th in two. That birdie made him five-under for his last seven holes in his own 66 for 17-under and a three-shot win. It was a feat worthy of all the attention.
Alas, McIlroy was still on the course and his capitulation was proving too intense to ignore. A three-putt on the 16th and then a wild slice on the 18th… The drive on the last was so askew he was obliged to hit a provisional and even that hooked into the water.
Thankfully his first was located and just to remind the stunned galleries of what he is capable he conjured a wonderful recovery over the villas to the green, but with the golf gods now plainly in merciless cackle his ball toppled into the water.
After the penalty drop, McIlroy putted up to five feet, but missed his par putt again. It was deeply uncomfortable viewing. The crowd were respectfully silent as he trudged off the green, with only the lone shout of “we love you, Rory”, but his frustration soon became too much. He waited until the fans could not see him and then – rip. And RIP to his recently restored “zen” reputation.
We have seen players – including McIlroy – hurl clubs, snap clubs, chuck balls, demolish tee-markers, throw shoes at referees even. But this was a first.
As his entourage spirited him to media safety, Rory looked more like a rugby player than a golfer. He will next be in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in two weeks’ time. McIlroy will be desperate to get this torrid climax out of his mind before his festive break.
In stark contrast, Morikawa was blissfully living in the moment, close to tears as he accepted the two trophies. “It feels so good,” he said. “It’s an honour to be the first American to do this on the European Tour and to put my name against many, many great ‘Hall of Famers’. I’m touched just talking about it.
“Look, the way my head is wired, I’m always looking for what’s next, but I’m going to try to enjoy this. This one is special.”
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