Rory McIlroy headed to the 17th tee in the final round of the Scottish Open one shot off the lead. The task ahead of him was steep: the field had played the two closing holes nearly a full stroke over par on a difficult Sunday. There wound up being as many double bogeys or worse on those two holes (eight) as there were birdies. There wasn’t a single player in the field who had birdied both 17 and 18 all day.

Until Rory did.

McIlroy’s brilliant finish lifted him to a one-shot win, the 24th of his PGA Tour career. Adding in his win in Dubai earlier this season, he became the third player to win multiple Rolex Series events in the same year. He will now head to Hoylake for The Open Championship, site of his victory in 2014.

But first, here’s how McIlroy got back into the winner’s circle.

Dominant with driver

McIlroy used his greatest weapon to its fullest potential all week long, leading the tournament handily in strokes gained off-the-tee. Rory pounded 14 drives of 350 yards or longer, three more than any other player in the field this week. The average distance for all McIlroy’s drives was 316.2 yards – longest of any player, and more than 20 yards longer than the field average.

Rory’s performance with driver accounted for more than 44 percent of his field-best 12.68 strokes gained tee-to-green. Despite hitting just three fairways in the final round, McIlroy managed a driving accuracy rate for the week of 52 percent, just a touch under the field average. This marks the fourth time since last year’s FedExCup Playoffs that McIlroy has led a PGA Tour field in strokes gained off-the-tee, the most such instances of any player in that span.

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Excellent with irons

In the final round, McIlroy gained a total of 1.95 strokes on the field with his approach shots, good for 11th-best on the day. While that’s a solid number to hang your hat on, how he got to that total is even more impressive. On the last two holes alone, Rory picked up 1.85 strokes with his approach shots, accounting for 95 percent of his total for the entire round.

At 17, the field had an average proximity to the hole Sunday of 49 feet, 5 inches. Rory stuck his approach to 4 feet, 6 inches, one of just two players to get it inside five feet there in the entire final round. On the closing hole, McIlroy hit an even more impressive shot: from 202 yards away in the rough, Rory put it inside 11 feet from the cup. This season, on approaches from the rough from that yardage, the average proximity to the hole on Tour is nearly 66 feet. In the final round, on all approach shots at 18, the average proximity was 68 feet.

Considering the tournament situation, trying winds, pre-shot adjustments and unique ball flight, McIlroy’s approach shot at 18 Sunday was one of the most memorable of his stellar career. With his back against the wall, needing two strong iron shots to give him a shot at the win, McIlroy pulled it off.

Clutch putting

After struggling on the greens in rounds two and three, McIlroy rediscovered elite putting form just in time for the final round. Rory made 113 feet of putts on Sunday, the third-highest total of any player in the field. That’s more than he had in the previous two rounds combined (92 feet, 4 inches). McIlroy gained 2.67 strokes putting on Sunday, also third-best of any player in the final round. It was a sharp turnaround from losing more than three strokes on the greens on Friday and Saturday – and the most strokes gained putting in a final round for McIlroy since last year’s Tour Championship, which he also won.

After watching his playing partners each make double bogey at 18, McIlroy could have understandably been shaky over his 11-foot, potential tournament-winner. But in the final round, Rory couldn’t miss from that particular range: he was a perfect 4-for-4 on the day on putts from 10 to 15 feet away. Meanwhile, the field made just 25.9% of their putts from that distance during a windy final round.

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Looking to The Open

Since the beginning of the 2015 season, no player has had more top-ten finishes in major championships than Rory McIlroy. Is next week when he finally picks up his fifth major win? At Royal Liverpool in 2014, McIlroy was as brilliant with the scalpel as he was the sledgehammer: he led the field in driving distance, but also ranked fourth in both scrambling and putts per round. His win, at the time, made him the youngest three-time major winner in the men’s game since Tiger Woods in 2000.

McIlroy’s name permeates Open and major championship best-of stats lists in recent years. He’s tied for second in cumulative score to par at The Open since 2017 (27-under). He’s made the second-most birdies or better per round at The Open going back to 2015 (4.32, minimum 16 rounds in span). Across all majors the last two seasons, he’s ranked second in both strokes gained ball striking per round (+2.27) and total birdies and eagles made (108).

McIlroy enters the 2023 Open off the strength of six consecutive top-ten finishes. The only time in his career he has gone to any major on a streak of six or more top-ten results worldwide was at the 2019 Masters, when he had seven straight heading to Georgia.

The 151st Open Championship begins Thursday.


    Rory WITB Stealth 2 Plus 9 0 Driver Face
    • Stealth 2 Plus 9.0° Driver (Ventus TR Blue 6 X)
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    • Stealth 2 Plus 15.0° 3-wood (Ventus TR Blue 8 X)
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    • P·760 2-iron & 4-iron (HZRDUS Black 6.5 105 @ 17°)
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    • Rors Proto 5-9 (Project X 7.0)
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    • Milled Grind 3 46.09° SB (Project X 6.5 Wedge)
    • Milled Grind 4 50.09° SB, 54.11° SB, 60.08° LB (Project X 6.5 Wedge)
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