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Woods Almost Steals Bay Hill Show From Resurgent Rory

Rory McIlroy lets out a fist pump after his brilliant birdie putt on the 72nd green at Bay Hill.
The prospect of a Rory McIlroy victory being overshadowed by ANYTHING was unthinkable just two months ago but it almost happened today at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

And McIlroy can thank the man who inspired him to the top of the game for nearly being relegated to second fiddle at Bay Hill.

The Northern Irishman played divine golf in his 8-under 64 in the final round, birdies at five of the last six holes exactly the sort of golf his hero Tiger Woods often produced in his prime.

But it was Woods himself who almost stole the show from McIlroy with a Sunday charge that got him within one shot of the lead through 15 holes and sent the Twittersphere into meltdown.

As Woods made his sixth birdie of the day at the 13th, the unrealistic hype that follows him everywhere he goes went into overdrive.

Three holes later, as his tee shot sailed OB at the short par-5 16th, even those of us on the other side of the world could feel the energy being sucked out of the tournament.

The ensuing bogey ended any hope Woods had and another at the next put an exclamation point on his demise.

However as Woods capitulated it was McIlroy, perhaps the only other player in the field capable of generating excitement anything close to his boyhood hero, who did what great players do: he stood up and performed.

Playing four groups behind Woods it was at almost the same moment as Woods came unstuck that McIlroy began his charge.

Birdies at 13, 14, 15 and 16 took the tournament by the scruff of the neck before a closing long-range effort at 18, as Woods has done so many times before him, closed it out.

“I’ve seen Tiger make that putt enough times to know what it does so I just wanted to try to emulate that,” McIlroy told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands with a grin when describing his 100th putt of the week.

“I didn’t quite give it the hat toss (which Woods famously did in similar circumstances in 2008). I was thinking  about doing it!

“But just to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green is pretty special and I’m just really proud of myself to have hung in there over the past few moths, or even a year, with injury and everything else that’s happened.”

McIlroy's final victory margin was three over Bryson DeChambeau, four over Justin Rose and five over Henrik Stenson.

Woods finished in a share of fifth eight shots behind but as he did last week in finishing T2 at the Valspar Championship, he overshadowed everything - and everyone - at ‘The King’s’ tournament.

Despite the uncharacteristically poor finish after the deflating tee shot at the 16th, Woods once again all but proved the question is ‘when’ not ‘if’ he will win again.

“I didn’t commit to it and bailed out and hit a bad shot and that’s all on me for not committing,” he told Sands of the error at 16.

“When I got to 16 I figured I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3-under to even have a chance to force a playoff but as it turned out, with the way Rory’s going out there, even that wouldn’t have been enough.”

Defending champion Marc Leishman was top Australian at 8-under and T7, his 5-under 67 Sunday his best effort of the week and seeing him leapfrog 28 players.

Jason Day was next best at 5-under and T22 after and even par 72, Adam Scott three shots further back and T41.

Curtis Luck, who was just outside the top 10 after a Friday 68, shot over par for the second straight day to slip to T58 on the leaderboard at 1-over for the week.

SIGNATURE HOLES: 16TH AT LONG REEF GC (NSW)

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