Thanks to the PGA Tour’s new designated event status, which the WM Phoenix Open bestows, we get to see big names like Rory McIlroy come to stops they may have otherwise skipped.
Sure, McIlroy was here just two years ago, but that was the only trip to TPC Scottsdale of his career.
A reason for his absence is due to his priorities playing on the DP World Tour in the Middle East around this time of year. He’s still done that, winning the Hero Dubai Desert Classic a couple weeks ago.
It was a stirring win for McIlroy, who at 19-under edged LIV rival Patrick Reed by a shot. Rory beat some other big names in the field, too, such as Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Tyrrell Hatton, etc.
All the more impressive was that this was Rory McIlroy’s first start of the new year.
It was McIlroy’s second win in his last three starts worldwide (CJ Cup), seventh straight top-four, and eighth straight top-eight. Many were calling for the other red-hot European golfer, Jon Rahm, to be No. 1. He’s certainly deserving, but there’s a reason why he couldn’t quite overtake McIlroy.
McIlroy’s 2021 visit to the WM Phoenix Open produced a T-13th finish. The Northern Irishman fired rounds of 70-67-70-64 and climbed 23 spots on Sunday after a brilliant 7-under closing round.
He was ninth in the field in strokes gained tee to green (6.36) but had trouble being on the attack hitting just 31 of 56 fairways (55.36%) to rank T-84th in driving accuracy.
Last season, McIlroy led the PGA Tour in total SG per round (2.115). He continued to be one of the best drivers in the world and was third in SG off the tee per round (.771).
He was also fourth in birdie average (4.53).
McIlroy tends to play well on desert courses like we saw in his last start. I expect that to continue in Arizona.