Rory McIllroy seems back to the form that had him ranked number one in the world several years ago.
He put on a driving and putting exhibition in the final round of the 2018 MasterCard Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday to serve notice that he is not ready to fade into the shadows of the second tier, those golfers who have had a moment in the sun, but now seem content to idle along and cash the substantial paychecks that accompany consistent top-50 finishes.
When McIllroy has his driver going, he makes a mockery of the game and on a shorter course such as Bay Hill, where many of the players use irons off the tees of some of the par 4 and 5s, his accurate drives smashed straight down the middle leave him with short irons, where he can, as he did yesterday, take advantage of his pinpoint approach-shot accuracy to have birdie after birdie opportunity.
He nearly ran the table on the back nine in his final round, with birdies on five of his six final holes. The clinical display he put on in the final hole, where he made the tough finishing hole look like a chip-and-putt, provided the birdie that made the win a foregone conclusion.
McIllroy was out in 33 on the front nine, with three “routine” birdies on holes six, seven and nine. When he turned up the heat on the back nine, he left no margin for error for Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, past major champions all, or recent sensation Bryson DeChambleau.
Not to be entirely overlooked, Marc Leishman snuck up the leaderboard with a final round 67 that left him in a pack of five players that tied seventh.
Leishman, although playing a somewhat limited schedule this season, seems to be rounding into form with two weeks to go until the Masters, the first Major of the season.
Jason Day had a good round only in round three, where his 67 helped him to finish tied for 22nd.
Adam Scott tied for 41st, Curtis Luck for 58th.
Stuart Appleby, Cameron Smith and New Zealand’s Danny Lee all failed to make the cut.