SAN FRANCISCO – Rory McIlroy didn’t need another comeback to win the Match Play Championship.
Three times in the last three days, McIlroy had to rally from a late deficit to reach the championship match Sunday at TPC Harding Park. He removed any suspense by winning four straight holes against an errant Gary Woodland and never looked back.
Woodland conceded the 16th hole, and McIlroy captured his second World Golf Championship with a 4-and-2 victory.
Three weeks after Jordan Spieth won the Masters and emerged as the most likely rival, McIlroy reminded the world of his No. 1 ranking.
“I’m really proud of myself with how I showed a lot of character early on with coming back from deficits,” McIlroy said. “I played really solid golf. My second WGC and first win in the States this year. I couldn’t be happier.”
It was the first time since Tiger Woods in 2008 that the No. 1 seed won golf’s most unpredictable tournament. Woods did it two other times, and it was never easy.
That was the case for McIlroy until the final, and even then, he had a few nervous moments on the back nine.
McIlroy was 4 up after matching birdies with Woodland on the 10th hole when he began making mistakes – a poor bunker shot on No. 11, a wild tee shot on No. 12, an different chip from the left side of the 13th green.
Woodland had a 4-foot par putt on the 13th to cut the lead to 1 up with plenty of golf course left. He never looked comfortable and ran it over the right edge, and momentum shifted squarely back to McIlroy.
He won the 14th with a par when Woodland left a long birdie attempted woefully short. And he closed out the match when Woodland blasted out of a bunker and over the 16th green, missing the next shot and removing his cap.
“My putt drops on 13 and it’s a different ball game,” Woodland said. “But I missed that one. And he was like a shark. Smelled blood, and it was gave over quickly.”
McIlroy was 2 down with two holes to play and risked being eliminated Friday when he rallied against Billy Horschel to win in 20 holes. In a quarterfinal match that spilled into Sunday morning, he was 1 down to Paul Casey on the 17th hole and wound up beating him in 22 holes.
His strongest play was in the semifinals against Jim Furyk, who put enormous pressure on McIlroy over the closing holes by hitting four straight approach shots close. McIlroy delivered a birdie-birdie-eagle finish to win.
The first birdie was to halve the hole on the 16th and avoid going 2 down with 2 to play. He hit 7-iron to 4 feet for birdie on the 17th to square the match. And with Furyk facing a 20-foot birdie putt, McIlroy ended the match by rolling in a 45-foot eagle putt across the green for a 1-up victory.
Woodland faced an early deficit to Danny Willett of England in the semifinals until he turned it around for a 3-and-2 victory. Going into the championship match, Woodland had trailed on only 11 of the 101 holes he had played all week.
Against McIlroy, he never led.
They halved holes with bogeys until Woodland kept making them. His powerful driving, such a strength over four days, deserted him in the championship match and McIlroy made him pay for it.
In the consolation match, Willett defeated Furyk on the 16th hole and picked up $646,000, which will go a long way toward PGA Tour membership if he wants it.
McIlroy won for the second time this year and the 16th time worldwide. It was his 10th PGA Tour victory, joining Woods (24) and Jack Nicklaus (12) as the only players with at least 10 victories at age 25 or younger.
McIlroy turns 26 on Monday.
The Match Play Championship featured a new format this year to keep more top players in the field for at least three days. McIlroy was 3-0 in the round-robin format, and wound up winning all seven matches to pick up the $1.57 million prize.
Woodland earned $930,000 for finishing second.