NORTHERN IRELAND’S Rory McIlroy believes he’s overcome his play-off demons after claiming golf’s biggest first prize with victory over Ryder Cup rival Anthony Kim at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters.
The US Open champion banked a cheque of £1.25m, but only after he had seen a three-shot overnight lead disintegrate for the second tournament in succession.
But the 22-year-old, playing his first event since changing management stables, benefited from a regulation miss from American Kim at the first extra hole and McIlroy’s two-footer for par gave him the title.
It was the fourth time McIlroy has been involved in a play-off to win a professional tournament and the first time he has tasted victory, and the world No3 hopes he has now put his shootout hoodoo to bed.
He said: “After four play-offs maybe I am getting a bit better at this, but I did have a better lie than Anthony.
“My goal is to keep improving and learning ways to win tournaments and for me this kind of concentration is important.”
After three rounds of relatively mistake-free golf in Shanghai, McIlroy hit into the water and bunkers, and missed several close putts which was reminiscent of his dramatic collapse in the final round of the Masters back in April.
But on this occasion he was able to regain his composure and drew level with a birdie at the 15th, and with pars at the final three holes he tied with Kim on the 18-under-par mark of 270, McIlroy going round in a level-par 72 to Kim’s 69.
Despite his wobble, McIlroy denied the size of the prize on offer had contributed towards his error-strewn closing round.
He said: “All I was thinking the first time was, ‘I want to hole this putt because I don’t want to go into a play off.’
“It really never crossed my mind until that last putt went in. I just wanted another win as I feel I have been close to winning the past few weeks but haven’t got it done. To get another win is nice.
“I felt that I was playing good golf even though the pin positions were a bit more challenging. Even when Anthony was level and then went ahead I kept telling myself there was only one shot in it and to keep playing the same way.
“The wind was stronger than it had been in the first three days. Anthony has played great all week and got off to a fast start when I didn’t. I had to hang tough on the back nine.”
POWER SERGE | Garcia returns to world’s top 20
SPAIN’S Sergio Garcia confirmed his return to the game’s elite by climbing back into the world's top 20 with victory in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama yesterday. Garcia began the day two shots clear of fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and, after a nervous start, kept his nerve to take his second title in a week. The 31-year-old, who ended a three-year title drought last weekend with a victory at the Castello Masters, said: “I wasn't as good as probably the last 13 days, but we hung on and managed to pull through.” Victory earned Garcia the last place in this week’s Champions event in Shanghai.