Rory McIlroy delighted the fans at The K Club as the home favourite overcame a stern challenge from Russell Knox to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation, sealing victory with an eagle after a sensational five-wood to three feet on the 72nd hole.
McIlroy had spoken coming into the week of what a first professional win on Irish soil would mean to him, saying it would give him “goosebumps”, and the Northern Irishman was clearly emotional after firing a closing round of 69 to seal his 13th European Tour title in County Kildare.
The result is all the more impressive given that McIlroy, who becomes the first home winner of the Irish Open since Shane Lowry in 2009, had missed the cut in this event in the last three seasons.
The four-time Major Championship winner came into the final round with a three-shot lead, but was overtaken by Knox with three holes to play before two stunning approach shots gave him a birdie-par-eagle finish and a 12 under total.
That handed him a three-shot win over Knox and Bradley Dredge, who had made a final day surge of his own with a birdie-birdie finish in a 66.
The weather had again played its part, with hailstorms leading to a one hour suspension, but the sun made an appearance for the dramatic finale and McIlroy sent the 25,270 fans home deliriously happy with his sublime finish.
The Rory Foundation also benefitted to the tune of €666,660, as McIlroy donated his winner’s cheque to the charity which hosts the tournament.
Rory McIlroy: “I had a little bit of time on the green when Russell and Danny were finishing out, and I was trying to hold back the tears then. You know, golf-wise this week, it's obviously very important to me but the work that we've put into this tournament and the work that we've put into the foundation, and the people that we are going help from this week, that’s probably more important.
“We've already raised over half a million Euros going into today for the three chosen charities, and then all the winnings go towards that, as well, so we've broken the million Euro mark this week, which is absolutely incredible. I don't usually get emotional about golf or about wins, but this one, it means just a little bit more, because it's not just for myself. It's for a lot of other people. So it's a day I'll not forget for a while.
“To win The Irish Open, to win your National Open, you don't get many opportunities to do it. I knew I needed to take this chance and I'm just glad I came up with the right shot at the right time.”
Russell Knox: “I played brilliantly to be honest. I had loads of chances. I made some, missed some. I was very happy the way I played. Obviously 16 was a huge turning point. But the shots that Rory hit in the end, he deserves to win.
“It was amazing. The Irish crowds are phenomenal here. Of course they are rooting for Rory, just like they would root for me in Scotland. But they were extremely respectful to Danny and myself, and if you hit good shots, they cheered us on.”
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free: “This has been a remarkable week, capped off by an incredible performance by our tournament host, Rory McIlroy. We are thrilled to be part of this spectacular tournament, and look forward to continuing to work with our partners at the Rory Foundation, Rory McIlroy and the European Tour. Our aim is to make the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open one of the most exciting golf tournaments in the world, and this week will go a long way towards helping us achieve this ambition.
“The K Club has set the stage for some of the most heart-stopping moments in golf, and we have thoroughly enjoyed every second. Sports sponsorship is very much part of our global marketing strategy, and this tournament is very important to us. Through this title sponsorship, our brand has been beamed into the homes of people all around the world who have also been able to enjoy seeing a superb display by our champion, Rory McIlroy.”