Maybe 54-hole tournaments have been unfairly ridiculed. It was never in the plan of the DP World Tour to reduce its flagship event to three days, with broader events rendering such a scenario necessary. Given the circumstances, jokes about parallels between this PGA Championship and the LIV model that the DP World Tour is battling so hard against were best kept under wraps but the competitive comparison was a natural one.
What transpired over the closing stretch at Wentworth’s West Course proved as captivating as anything that had arrived here, in standard form, before.
For Shane Lowry, a first victory since the Open Championship of 2019. How the Irishman had to scrap for this success, achieved at 17 under par after a closing round of 65. Remarkably, Lowry did not drop a shot in the entire tournament.
Golf’s general volatility, even amid Lowry’s celebration, was front and center. The champion made perfectly plain during pre-competition media duties that he felt it wrong that 15 LIV rebels were teeing up in Surrey.
With triumph came a broadside. “I made no secrets as to how I felt about the whole thing at the start of the week,” said Lowry. “I wanted to go out and win this tournament for myself, first and foremost, but I think [also] for this tour. Everyone that’s stayed loyal to this tour and everyone that’s done everything for this tour. I feel like this is one for the good guys.” Yet another verbal jab.
Lowry had earned the right to say as he pleased. He added: “I said to my coach this morning, ‘I need to just allow myself to play golf.’ I’m playing the best golf of my life. I needed to allow myself to do that and I did.” On an enthralling afternoon, the touch paper had been lit by LIV’s Patrick Reed. The ex-Masters champion’s 63 posted a 14 under total just as Lowry was taking to the 1st tee. The next statement of intent arrived from Jon Rahm. The Spaniard’s astonishing back nine of 29 featured one par, five birdies, two eagles and a bogey. Sixteen under was now the score to beat.
Enter Rory McIlroy. Playing in the group immediately behind Lowry, McIlroy looked out of sorts for long spells of his final round. Yet true to form, he refused to wilt. A birdie from the fringe of the 15th green moved him three under for the inward nine. Lowry remained within McIlroy’s sights, owing to the former’s failure to birdie the 16th or 17th. McIlroy missed a chance of his own at the penultimate hole, meaning it all came down to the last. Lowry delivered a straightforward birdie four to post minus 17. McIlroy needed to convert an eagle putt from 23ft to force a playoff; the Northern Irishman’s ball remained above ground, much to his own disbelief.
“I think Shane winning softens the blow,” said McIlroy after his 67. “If it had been someone else, I might not have felt as comfortable with it as I am. Seeing a friend win is always great and I am really happy for him.
“I struggled today. I didn’t hit my irons very well. I was scrambling a lot. But I got the most of my round. I wish I had made a four on 17, but, apart from that, I dug in there and did what I needed to do to give myself a chance going down 18.
“That’s all you can ask for. I’m incredibly happy for Shane. He’s been knocking on the door a lot this year.” Indeed, Lowry and McIlroy hugged at the scoring area, the message from the victor came in jest. “You’ve won enough,” Lowry said.
McIlroy – who remains in pole position to claim the DP World Tour’s order of merit crown for the first time since 2015 – settled for a share of second with Rahm. Talor Gooch, another part of Wentworth’s controversial LIV contingent, signed off with a 67 to close in fourth. Reed had Thomas Detry, Søren Kjeldsen and Viktor Hovland for company in tied fifth. As was their plan, Gooch and Reed have done well in a world-ranking context from this hop across the Atlantic. Ultimate glory, however, belonged to Lowry.