Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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Solace for Rory McIlroy, surprise for all else

Australian fans would certainly beg to differ with me, but what a brilliant final day it turned out to be at the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club last week.

Rory McIlroy finally winning his first tournament of a tumultuous year, and the in-form Adam Scott losing out on the Australian ‘Triple Crown’, was not the expected result when final-round play began on Sunday morning. Scotty was playing solid golf and had built up a four-shot lead after three rounds. But by evening, the script was completely shred apart and what shone brightly were the glorious uncertainties of sport.

McIlroy was showing signs of returning to the kind of form that made him the No.1 player in the world. It all started post-FedEx Cup, when he went to Korea. He finished second there, and even though some may sneer at the quality of the field he faced that week, let me assure you the Korean players are known to have bulldog-like qualities when playing at home, and the course set-up for the Korean Open is among the toughest in the world. Finishing second there was no mean achievement, and he kept building up on that.

The DP World Tour Championship in Dubai was a clear indication he was getting extremely comfortable with his game. I say that because, even though he did continue to make frustrating bogeys, he was also making a lot of birdies — something that is the hallmark of his game.

And yet, I did not give him much chance in Sydney on Sunday. That’s because Scotty was just in too good form to give away a four-shot advantage. But, as I said, nothing in this sport is final until the last putt is made. Scotty missed his par putt on the 18th and McIlroy made his birdie attempt, and that accounted for the final one-shot difference between the two.

We have two big events on the European Tour this week — the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, which used to be a 10-man invitational event until last year, and the Hong Kong Open, which is where I am going to be.

Henrik Stenson will be the man to watch in Sun City, although he will have plenty of quality opposition from players such as Justin Rose, Charl Scwartzel, Ernie Els and Luke Donald, among others.

In Hong Kong, I absolutely love the tree-lined layout at Fanling, which is very much an old-style course like Delhi Golf Club back home. I have had some very good finishes there over the years, and I am hoping all areas of my game click this week.

(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)