CHAMPIONS
McIlroy, Langer Have Weekends to Remember May 23, 2016 By Scott Lipsky, David Shefter and Greg Midland, USGA

Rory McIlroy was victorious on his home soil, just weeks before he tackles Oakmont Country Club in his quest for a second U.S. Open title. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Rory McIlroy is a four-time major champion whose performances, including his dominant, eight-stroke win in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club, have often wowed the golf world. To listen to McIlroy, his latest victory might be just as meaningful to him. 

McIlroy, a native of Holywood, Northern Ireland, eagled the 72nd hole to seal a win for the first time in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation, winning in front of friends and family at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland. He entered the final round with a three stroke lead – the third round was completed on Sunday morning – and posted a 3-under 69 to keep himself clear of the field by the same margin.

“I don't know if I can put it into words. I don't really get emotional when I win but I was trying to hold back the tears there on the 18th green,” McIlroy said after the win, his 13th on the European Tour and first as a professional on Irish soil. "I don't get a chance to play in front of my home fans very often so to play like that and to finish like that today, I'll never forget it.”

His eagle on the final hole was set up by an outstanding second shot on the par-5 18th, which measured 537 yards.

With McIlroy’s foundation hosting the event, all of the world No. 3’s prize money was donated back to the organization, which works to improve the lives of young people.

Martin Kaymer, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, finished in a tie for fifth, six strokes back of McIlroy.


A Winning Tradition for Langer

Bernhard Langer, 58, again showed the golf world why he has no intention of slowing down when it comes to winning. The 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion won for the second time this year on the PGA Tour Champions, capturing the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala. It was his 27th career victory since turning 50, and he displayed his trademark ability to close out a tournament by making birdie on five of his last seven holes in the final round.

Though the Tradition is a major on the PGA Tour Champions, Langer had not yet won it. He has the chance this week, when the over-50 set plays a second major at the Senior PGA Championship in Michigan, to become the first person in history to win all five senior majors.

Looking ahead to the 37th U.S. Senior Open Championship, to be played at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio from August 11-14, Langer will come in as one of the top players to watch. In a game where players typically balance streaks of success with periods of struggles, Langer has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, and his game would appear to be a good fit for Scioto’s classic, demanding layout.

Jutanugarn Goes Back-to-Back

Ariya Jutanugarn once struggled to close out professional tournaments.

Not anymore.

The 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion made it back-to-back wins on the LPGA Tour by carding a final-round 67 on Sunday to claim the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., by one stroke over Su Oh. Jutanugarn, of Thailand, holed a 10-foot par putt on the final hole to join 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and world No. 1 Lydia Ko, Ha Na Jang and Haru Nomura as winners of multiple events in 2016, posting a 72-hole score of 14-under 270.

Four other USGA champions finished in the top 10. Lexi Thompson, the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, tied for fifth at 10-under 274. U.S. Women’s Open champions So Yeon Ryu (2011) and In Gee Chun (2015) joined 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Minjee Lee among the five golfers who shared 10th place at 8-under 276.

Knost Finds His Groove

Colt Knost entered the professional ranks on top of the amateur golf world, having won both the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Amateur in 2007. Since opting to play for pay, however, the 30-year-old Texas resident Garrettsville, Ohio has seen mixed results. A two-time winner on the Web.Com Tour, Knost had just six top-10 finishes in 160 career starts on the PGA Tour. There was little reason to think he’d contend at The Players Championship last week, but a course record-tying 63 in the second round ultimately lifted him to a tie for third. 

That momentum carried over into the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas. Buoyed by another Friday 63, Knost, who attended nearby Southern Methodist University, closed with back-to-back birdies on Sunday to post a 5-under 65 on and finish in a tie for fourth, just two shots out of a playoff with eventual winner Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka.

Matt Kuchar, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion, finished a stroke out of the playoff on Sunday when his long birdie try on the 72nd hole went begging, settling for third place. 

Another Memorable Moment for Yang

Gunn Yang, the 2014 U.S. Amateur champion, has had a knack of producing memorable performances when it’s least expected. He was No. 776 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ when he defeated Corey Conners at the Atlanta Athletic Club in the 36-hole championship match. Yang pulled off several clutch shots under pressure en route to the improbable title.

Last week, the San Diego State sophomore may have hit the shot of his life, holing out a 7-iron approach from 202 yards for a double-eagle 2 on the 544-yard first hole in a playoff in the NCAA Albuquerque (N.M.) Regional for the final spot in next week’s NCAA Championship at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.

“Best shot I’ve seen in my coaching career,” San Diego State coach Ryan Donovan told Golfweek.

Teammate Ryann Ree eagled the hole a few minutes later to help the Aztecs eliminate Texas A&M.

Yang entered the event as SDSU’s No. 5 player, with just one top-20 finish in his last five starts. SDSU fought back from an 11-strokedeficit over its final nine holes to get into the two-team playoff for the final qualifying spot. In the 5-count-4 team format, the Aztecs finished the playoff with a 5-under score, three better than Texas A&M.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org. David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org. Greg Midland is the director of editorial content at the USGA. Email him at gmidland@usga.org