The future of the PGA Tour cannot be discussed this season without Rory McIlroy’s name on their lips. At the 2022 Tour Championship on Sunday, McIlroy reminded himself that he is integral to the present. Despite trailing by 10 shots at East Lake Golf Club, McIlroy (-21) rallied Sunday to defeat world No. 1 Scotty Scheffler to become the first three-time winner in the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The history of the FedEx Cup and the $18 million first-place prize that comes with the trophy.
Unlike some tournaments where he’s dug himself into a hole to contend with — which he certainly did by kicking the event with a triple Thursday — McIlroy was in the conversation from the start at East Lake by posting 67s. In consecutive rounds to the opening game. However, it was his third-round nine early on Sunday that made him a real contender, as Rory carded a 63 over three of his last six holes and earned his spot alongside Scheffler in the final pairing. 54-hole leader despite a six-stroke deficit.
“I’ve been in the final group three of the last five years,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t give myself too much of a chance today. Six down, I thought it would be very difficult to make up for it. But [between] “My good game and Scotty’s not so good, it’s a ball game going into the back nine.”
McIlroy’s fourth round started with a bogey, but he was even with Scheffler after the Texan put three bogeys on his scorecard in the opening six holes. The race officially began as McIlroy converted five birdies across his first 12 holes and both came in style. Another bogey on the 14th put McIlroy behind Scheffler, but Rory immediately responded with a stunning 31-foot birdie putt on the 15th that sent the crowd into a frenzy and put him back in a tie atop the leaderboard.
It was the par-4 16th where McIlroy nearly came undone. Sitting in a fair bunker after his second shot, his third shot flew almost 30 yards to the green. However, Rory’s subsequent chip tipped over the flagpole, Scheffler missed a 9-foot par putt, and McIlroy took the lead and became the first golfer to take the top spot from Scheffler this week.
With a stroke entering the par 18, McIlroy found a bunker to follow by Scheffler roughing his own approach from the grandstand. When Scheffler sent his third shot from the bunker to the green, it gave McIlroy the option to play conservatively between the green and two putt for the FedEx Cup crown.
“I feel like Scotty deserves half of this today,” McIlroy said after he was first introduced as champion. “He had an unbelievable season. I feel bad … but he’s a bad competitor. He’s even better. It’s an honor and a privilege to fight him today.”
Scheffler, a four-time PGA Tour winner this season and the world’s top-ranked golfer almost all year, was tied for second with Sungjae Im; Each took home $5.75 million, splitting the second- and third-place prizes.
McIlroy later referred to a “Georgia battle” between the two titans of the game as Scheffler got the better of McIlroy at the 2022 Augusta National Masters in April. When the bounces went the 26-year-old’s way at the first major championship of the year (and for most of the year), on Sunday, the golf gods took the man from Northern Ireland to victory, a season atone. Four top-10 finishes at major championships, including a heartbreaker (at the Open Championship at St Andrews) and one that left McIlroy sour.
“It’s a terrible thing [to win the Tour Championship],” McIlroy said. “I believe in golf. I especially believe in this tour. I have confidence in the players in this tour. It’s the best place in the world to play golf, bar none, and I’ve played all over the world.
“It’s an incredibly proud moment for me, but it’s got to be an incredibly proud moment for the PGA Tour as well. They’ve had some tough times this year, but we’re getting through it. It was a scene out there today — two of the best players in the world going head-to-head for the biggest prize on the PGA Tour — – I hope everyone at home enjoyed it.”
Having become the face of the PGA Tour, leading the charge against the upstart LIV Golf Series and still able to perform at the highest level on the biggest stage, the taste of victory was all too sweet for McIlroy in Atlanta.
In a week that began with McIlroy and Tiger Woods trying to secure the game’s future off the golf course, McIlroy’s performance inside the ropes proved once again that the PGA Tour can’t rebuild.
Here’s a breakdown of the remaining leaderboards for the 2022 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
T2. Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im (-20): The stars aligned for Scheffler to claim history at East Lake. Starting the week with a two-stroke lead, building it to seven and entering the final round with a six-stroke edge, Scheffler let the FedEx Cup slip through his fingers. After playing his final six holes in 4 under to finish his third round on Sunday morning, it felt inevitable that this week would continue like his spring when he captured his four wins.
With a win, Scheffler would have had the richest season in PGA Tour history and join Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas for only the fifth five-win season of the past decade. He would have put a stamp on what was an outrageous campaign. Despite the $12.25 million difference between the first-place prize and Scheffler’s T2 amount, Scheffler will take solace in a surprisingly good season. He’ll be named your PGA Tour Player of the Year, and he’ll be No. 1 in the world, but alas, sometimes even the best fall when the lights are too bright.
The adopted son of Atlanta, I was going about his business as usual, and on Sunday Nine was doing his worst to recover from a big mistake on his back. He had a shot at the lead on several occasions, but it was a double bogey on the par-4 14th that ultimately eliminated his name from FedEx Cup contention. With just one win this season, Im’s consistency finally paid dividends in the form of a shared second-place check. He entered the postseason with back-to-back runner-up finishes and carried this momentum into three straight top-15 finishes. It’s easy to forget that I’m 24 years old, and it’s safe to say that a Scheffler-type season isn’t on the horizon for him as he hopes to lead the Internationals to a major upset at the Presidents Cup in September.
4. Xander Schauffele (-18): East Lake Savant was one of three players to touch the lead during the Tour Championship, but Schaffel immediately returned. Without Saturday’s rain delay, we might have been discussing a different story, but in the end, his end of the weekend was undone. Schaffel, one of four players who did not break par in the third round, was unable to keep up with his playoff rival, Scheffler, and eventually the rest of the field.
T5. Max Homa, Justin Thomas (-17): Homa capped off her season in impressive fashion as she claimed her first match of the 2021-22 campaign. Playing her final 56 holes at 18 under, Homa managed to climb from the depths of the leaderboard to a seven-figure payday. The confident King should continue on this path into next year as he adds two wins, a top-five finish at the Tour Championship and (more) a loss for America at the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow — the site of his first PGA Tour victory — to his playing resume.
T7. Patrick Cantlay, Sep Straka (-16): All of the FedEx Cup titles for Cantlay this week are PGA Tour Player of the Year. Coming in second place at No. 8 during the week, California took a prominent place on the front page of the leaderboard. Contley was among the leaders in both fielding metrics, but was uncharacteristically ranked outside the top 25 in strokes gained among 29 players. He was statistically better than last season, but despite that achievement, the 30-year-old’s hardware from the Zurich Classic and BMW Championship feels a little light.
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