Rory McIlroy paid a moving tribute to the late tournament host following his stunning win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
McIlroy’s last PGA Tour win came in the Tour Championship on September 25, 2016, the day that Palmer passed away at age 87.
“It means a lot. The last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day that Mr Palmer passed away, so it’s a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example to all us players to try and follow and if everyone on tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place,” said McIlroy.
“He’s a fine man, I’m very lucky to have spent time with him; he shared a birthday with my wife so we always talked about that. I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I’m so happy to be winning that trophy,” he added.
The former World No 1 birdied five of the last six holes including a curling 25-footer at 18 to close with a 64 and finish three ahead of Bryson DeChambeau. McIlroy’s fiery finish was reminiscent of Palmer in his heyday as well as the man who won this event eight times, Tiger Woods, who continued his comeback with a T5 finish.
“Hopefully Arnie’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine. I tried to be as aggressive as I could and take on shots when I needed to, just like he would have,” noted McIlroy, who now has 24 career wins including four Majors.
“I’m never going to be able to leave a mark on the game like Arnie did, but I’ll try to emulate him in some way … and if I could get halfway close to that, I’ll have had a pretty good career.”
Driver: TaylorMade M3 460 (8.5°) / Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei CK Pro Orange 70X shaft
Fairways: TaylorMade M3 (15° and 19° ) / Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei CK Pro White 80X shafts
Irons: TaylorMade P750 Tour Proto (4) and TaylorMade P730 Rors Proto (5-9) / True Temper Project X 7.0 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (48°, 52°, 58°) and TaylorMade Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60°) / True Temper Project X 7.0 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade TP Collection Copper Soto Prototype
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x (#22)