Publication:

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

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Reborn Rory looks a world beater again as he chases glory

Golf

From Derek Lawrenson

THE piece of history in Rory McIlroy’s sights today hardly compares to the one that Collin Morikawa will complete here on the Earth Course with the luxury of an 18-hole lap of honour before being crowned the first American to win the Race to Dubai. But if the Northern Irishman becomes the first man to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on three occasions, it would seal his own remarkable revival since his tearful meltdown at the Ryder Cup. The 32-year-old won his first event after Whistling Straits in one desert in Nevada and now, in another, can complete the feat of back-to-back victories for the first time in seven years. No doubt there will be drama, even if he does pull it off. If you want to know why nearly the entire capacity crowd was following him and Morikawa, it was all there on the parthree 17th. McIlroy’s tee shot ought to have fallen into the water hazard surrounding the green but somehow finished on some decorative rockery. With a thick collar of rough just ahead of the ball, it looked like he would have to take his punishment and head to the drop zone. His caddie Harry Diamond, envisioning the ball ricocheting off the rough back into the water, pleaded with him to take the drop. Rory, meanwhile, took the shot on, clearing the rough and a bunker and then almost holing the chip back from 30ft for what would surely have been the most outrageous par witnessed all year. ‘The joy I get out of the game is taking those shots on and pulling them off,’ said McIlroy. ‘I’d rather lose trying to win than lose playing defensively. That’s the hard lesson I’ve learned in the last few years.’ Tied third is Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre, who shot a 67 and is quietly playing his way back to form. The 25-year-old from Oban recorded an eagle and six birdies and clearly relished being in the thick end of the hunt for glory after a lean spell of late. ‘I’m playing great and I’m committing to every shot,’ he said. ‘That’s when I play my best golf.’ Playing alongside McIlroy today will be Sam Horsfield, who is also quite a tale. He only sealed his place among the leading 54 players to contest this event with a top-12 finish in Portugal a fortnight ago. This afternoon, the Englishman is chasing a £2.5million first prize that would represent a bigger payday than he has earned over the entirety of his first four years on tour. But Open champion Morikawa might still prove the man to deny a UK victory. He has blown away the opposition who could have denied him the season-long race with three rounds below 70, and still looks like he has plenty in reserve.

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