Rory McIlroy held on to win the Honda Classic in Florida and in so doing became the new world number one, after a superb final-day charge from Tiger Woods.
McIlroy had to rely on his short game and putting to scramble his way to his first win of the season, which would have been easier had it not been for a final-day 62 from Woods that set a clubhouse target of ten-under-par.
The Ulsterman became the second-youngest player to reach the world number one spot after his victory at Palm Beach Gardens, and he replaced England’s Luke Donald at the top of the rankings.
Woods was 21 when he reached the pinnacle of the game, and it was he who did his best to apply the pressure on his young rival. The 14-time Major winner fired two eagles in his 62, but was too far behind at the start of the final round and McIlroy was able to get the job done and seal a two-shot victory.
“It was tough, especially seeing Tiger make a charge,” said McIlroy. “I knew par golf would probably be good enough and that’s what I was trying to do.
“My short game all week has been very good and it’s what you need on a tough course like this.”
Lee Westwood shot a final-round 63 to cap off an amazing Sunday in Florida, but it was McIlroy who stole the show en route to claiming the world number one spot that many people believed was only a matter of time.
McIlroy birdied the 13th before saving par from deep rough on the next. He was to get up and down from tricky spots on the 15th and 17th, and had the luxury of playing it safe on the par-5 18th.
Woods felt if he could finish with two birdies then he would have a chance and although he went one better and eagled the last, McIlroy was not to be denied.
“I’ve been hitting it like this, that’s the thing,” said Woods.
“I hit it really good in the wind in Australia [in November] and thought there was no reason I couldn’t do it again – and putt like I did the last two days. It came together.”
Venue: PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: March 1-4
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $5,700,000 Winner: $1,026,000
Defending Champion: Rory Sabbatini (-9)
2012 Honda Classic leaderboard:
1 Rory McIlroy (NIR)
T2 Tom Gillis (USA)
T2 Tiger Woods (USA)
4 Lee Westwood (Eng)
T5 Justin Rose (Eng)
T5 Charl Schwartzel (RSA)
T7 Rickie Fowler (USA)
T7 Dicky Pride (USA)
T9 Graeme McDowell (NIR)
T9 Kevin Stadler (USA)
T9 Chris Stroud (USA)
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage