Rory McIlroy’s fascinating feel, Rose Zhang’s wild finish | Monday Finish

Rory McIlroy took off running after his win at Quail Hollow.

Rory McIlroy took off running after his victory at Quail Hollow.

Ben Jared / Getty Images

Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re looking to join some sort of subcommittee. To the golf news!


Rory McIlroy’s momentum.

In recent years data scientists have pushed back on the idea of momentum in sports. Mostly, they say, there are skill levels and there are ranges of outcomes and you can kinda just run things through a computer from there. Given some golfers have the personalities of an Excel sheet, there may be some truth to those theories. But intuitively golf viewers just know there’s no golfer who plays with momentum quite like Rory McIlroy.

How does that manifest? Earlier this season it presented in strange ways, like at Pebble Beach, where McIlroy was six under par through 14 holes in his first round, three-putted his 15th hole and went on tilt from there; he played his next eight holes in eight over par (including a penalty for a bad drop) and plummeted to the bottom of the board.

This weekend? Things played out quite differently. McIlroy fell two shots behind playing partner Xander Schauffele after Schauffele eagled the par-5 seventh, but I’ll let McIlroy describe what happened next:

“So I hit it into that little pine straw area under the tree left of the eighth. Xander hits it up in good position just left of the green. I chip it up there to 10 feet. Xander chips it to eight feet. I make it, he misses, so I cut the deficit to one,” McIlroy said post-round Sunday, citing the moment as a turning point.

For context, McIlroy had said something interesting to close out his press conference on Saturday when he was asked if it was nice to keep walking past playing partners’ balls to his longer tee shots:

“I think I just like walking ahead of guys in general,” he’d said. “I like them to be looking at my back.”

Heading to No. 9 on Sunday after the unlikely birdie, he seized that opportunity.

“I think just getting the honor back on the ninth tee was a big moment, yeah, just mentally,” he said. He hammered his drive 320 down the middle, hit his approach to 10 feet and drained the putt. Now they were tied. “And then to hit the drive and the second shot that I did, yeah, it was a big moment to draw level with him going into the back nine, but I think I was able to do that because of the putt I made on 8 the hole before.”

We know what McIlroy momentum looks like. The fast pace, bouncy walk, the engaged body language, the extra twitches and flourishes when the ball’s in the air. It was interesting to hear that he feels it, too. And it was impressive to watch him continue to draw on it. McIlroy followed birdies at 8 and 9 with an eagle at 10 before repeating the process a couple holes later: birdie at 13, birdie at 14, holeout from the greenside bunker for eagle at 15. Suddenly he’d played eight holes in eight under par and turned a two-stroke deficit to a six-shot lead. Game over.

Now it’s just a question of whether that momentum translates from one week to the next.

“It’s really funny, so going into Valhalla in 2014 I had won my last two starts, and going into this year I’ve won my last two starts,” McIlroy said, referencing his fourth and most recent major championship win.

“I need to stay in my own little world next week and not get too far ahead of myself, but if you can step on to the first tee at Valhalla on Thursday and feel as good about my game as I did today, I think I’ll have a good chance.”

Rory McIlroy feeling himself. Rory McIlroy turning a week that began with drama surrounding off-course PGA Tour committee participation into a resounding on-course victory. Rory McIlroy playing with momentum. That’s golf stuff I like.


Who won the week?

Rory McIlroy won his 26th PGA Tour title. To quote bronze medalist Ben An:

“He doesn’t count,” An said with a laugh after his five-under 67. “I feel like I shot the best round today and he’s, what, eight under so far today. That’s crazy.

“I mean, I’m currently 10 shots behind him. I don’t see how — I could have gotten maybe two, three [more] shots out of my whole week. I don’t think I can pull 10 shots from anywhere. That’s incredible what he’s shooting this week.”

Then there was Rose Zhang. Until McIlroy pulled away on the back nine it felt like a two-horse race between him and Schauffele. But that was nothing compared to what Zhang and Madelene Sagstrom were doing at the LPGA Tour’s Cognizant Founders Cup. By day’s end, there was a thirteen-stroke gap between second and third. That was the same at the gap between third and T59! Zhang birdied four of her final five holes to turn a deficit into a lead and post a winning total of 24 under par for the week. It was the second win of her LPGA career — and a massive step forward for the one-time No. 1 amateur in the world.

“Coming down the stretch it was honestly — I just hit some crazy shots that I don’t know if I could hit again in that moment of pressure and was able to get it done,” she said. She’s up to No. 6 in the world.

Chris Gotterup won the Myrtle Beach Classic by six shots, delivering on his tremendous talent in the opposite-field event’s first year. Gotterup graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour and played several events last fall, but didn’t have a single top-20 in 12 individual starts since. That changed Sunday; he’s now into the PGA Championship and his Tour future is secure.

The Myrtle Beach Classic was also a surprising winner. Considering there was another, much bigger PGA Tour event one state away, you would have understood a meager turnout. But the first-time Tour event sold more than 40,000 tickets pre-tournament, had a waiting list for volunteers and had more than 15,000 spectators on Saturday alone. Pro golf has been talking a lot about untapped markets — perhaps they found one in … Myrtle Beach?

The International Team had a sneaky good week, too. A return to Quail Hollow had me thinking back to the 2022 Presidents Cup held here, and while that’s a completely different format and this year’s event is held in Montreal and one week means nothing, there were signs of life from the Internationals! Ben An was third. Jason Day and Sungjae Im tied for fourth. Mackenzie Hughes was T6. Add in Taylor Pendrith (T10) and Corey Conners (T13) and you’ve equaled the Americans. Somewhere Mike Weir smiles.


This category could include you — and me, too.

Nelly Korda didn’t win her record-breaking sixth LPGA start in a row. But she hardly withered, either; Korda finished T7 to snap the streak.

“Yeah, gosh, hasn’t even sunk in,” she said of the gravity of what she’d accomplished. “Maybe now or maybe in like 10, 15 years it’ll sink in. Hopefully someone beats it one day.”

Xander Schauffele reminded us that sometimes you lose and sometimes you get beat and sometimes it’s a little bit of both. When Schauffele eagled No. 7 it felt like maybe this would be his day; it had been 38 starts since his last victory despite regular trips to contention. But he stalled out as McIlroy entered turbo mode; when Schauffele bogeyed 12 and 13 and McIlroy birdied 13 and 14 it was over. There was never a chance he’d finish worse than second but suddenly there was no chance he’d win, either.

“I mean, he played unbelievable,” Schauffele said. “Overall I felt like I was doing pretty well for most of the day and then had that costly stretch and he capitalized like no other. Big reversal there.”

Madelene Sagstrom played her first 66 holes in a preposterous 23 under par but played her final six in one over as Rose Zhang chased her down. She said it was the best golf she’s played in years, but still — the near-miss stung.

“I mean, it’s kind of like everyone. You get nervous and want to hit good shots,” she said. “I wasn’t really pulling it off. Rose had a fantastic finish. I couldn’t really have done too much more. I felt like I gave it my all. I can’t be disappointed, but at the same time I am.”


Stuff you should know, in brief.

A couple billion dollars poured into men’s pro golf seems like a lot until you read that Saudi Arabia has spent $38 billion and counting on a ski resort in the desert. On the complexities of costs and construction. (From this WSJ piece on Neom)

Adam Scott says that he would “disagree completely” with reports of a rift between the PGA Tour’s Policy Board and Rory McIlroy, who was denied a return but still placed on an important subcommittee. Scott said it would be “incredibly helpful” having McIlroy in on negotiations alongside Woods. (From Sports Illustrated)

And as we stare down this week’s PGA Championship it’s worth noting that the World No. 1 (Scottie Scheffler) the World No. 2 (Rory McIlroy) and the defending champion (Brooks Koepka) are each entering the week coming off a victory.


Numbers don’t lie.

Jason Day turned in a season-best T4.
Jason Day turned in a season-best T4. Getty Images + Dylan Dethier

For reference, here was Jason Day‘s (largely popular, though divisive) Saturday outfit:


Something for you.

Rory McIlroy had one of the better weeks with driver he can remember, he said. The key? Committing to the cut. There’s your swing thought: Find what feels good and commit to it 100 percent.

“The driving is more just me committing to, most of the time, hitting that little cut that I’ve been hitting off the tee,” he said. “And then having the freedom to just — every time I hit a good tee shot, the more confidence I get and then the more I want to just keep hitting it.”


Something to ponder.

Who’s Scottie Scheffler‘s biggest rival right now? Does Sunday’s result make it Rory McIlroy, the World No. 2? Is it somehow Brooks Koepka, even though they’ve never really gone head-to-head? Would another close call down the stretch make it Wyndham Clark? None of the above?


You won’t be sorry.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a day in the life of a working LPGA mom with Brittany Lincicome. Fascinating watch. Moms rock.


Monday Finish HQ.

Took the baby on her first flight. It went surprisingly well, but man, the entire experience felt like a tightrope walk. My empathy for parents traveling with kids has changed instantly and dramatically. My appreciation for the ease of solo travel has, too. When I fly to Louisville for this week’s PGA I will take a deep, grateful plane nap just because I can.

We’ll check in from there!

Dylan welcomes your comments at

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

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