NORTON, Mass. — Rory McIlroy got the start he wanted Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, erasing a three-shot deficit in five holes. The finish was hardly a masterpiece, except for the part when golf's No. 1 player posed with the trophy.
He didn't make it easy on himself on Labor Day at the TPC Boston. He tore up the turf on a tee shot that traveled 170 yards, and that was the only fairway he hit over the last five holes.
He had to make a 6-foot putt to save par from a bunker and a 5-foot putt to save bogey after a pitch sailed from one side of the green to the other. And he had to wait as Louis Oosthuizen's birdie putt to force a playoff slid below the hole.
"I had a couple of wobbles coming in, but I obviously did enough and I'm very excited to get a victory," McIlroy said.
That's all anyone will remember.
On a leaderboard packed with some of the biggest names in golf, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland took a giant leap toward establishing himself as the best in the game.
With four birdies in six holes at the start, and by limiting the damage from his mistakes at the end, McIlroy closed with 4-under 67 for a one-shot victory over Oosthuizen, joining Tiger Woods as the only three-time PGA Tour winners this year.
McIlroy finished at 20-under 264 and moved to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. With one of his wins being the PGA Championship, that might be enough for his peers to vote him player of the year. He also has a comfortable gap in the world ranking.
"He's not No. 1 in the world for nothing," Oosthuizen said. "He's a great young talent, a lot of majors left for him to win. He's such a cool kid on the course. It's great playing with him. He makes tough shots look really sometimes, especially long irons.
"I don't think the back nine he hit the ball that great after what he did on the front nine, but he did what he had to do."