Even though he was five shots off the lead and two hours before the final group teed off, Rory McIlroy was still the top attraction on Sunday at the Barclays PGA Tour event in New Jersey.
The world’s top ranked player teed off at 12:05 p.m. with Angel Cabrera, and the huge crowds got to see the man of the moment in the game of golf.
McIlroy was on a Tiger Woods-like run before opening day on Thursday, having won his three previous starts.
The Barclays event marks the start of the annual Fed Ex Cup, the four-week playoff format that began in 2007 and is normally rotated in venues around the New York City metro area. This marked the third time that the tournament was held at Ridgewood Country Club, which gave McIlroy’s legion of local fans the opportunity to see the hottest player on the planet trying to continue his winning streak.
The large gallery following McIlroy on Sunday represented a cross section of fans from the young and the old, all there to see if he could mount a charge at the leaders who were within shouting distance. We all remember his win from seven shots behind at the BMW event in May.
There were many Irish flags in the crowd and many GAA jerseys to support him and his fellow Irish PGA star, Graeme McDowell.
There were many young kids in McIlroy’s gallery, all looking for a rare chance to see their idol and maybe get an autograph, or perhaps be the lucky recipient of a golf ball from the biggest player in golf since Tiger Woods.
McIlroy didn't exactly light it up Sunday, shooting one under par 70, which he attributed to poor putting. He finished nine shots behind the winner Hunter Mahan. The hot streak McIlroy was on entering the tournament had to cool off at some point.
McDowell, also a crowd favorite, had a smaller gallery following him. He posted a 72, finishing up two shots behind McIlroy.
McIlroy was paired with Bubba Watson on Friday when an errant approach to the 18th green hit a spectator who bounced Watson’s ball back onto the playing surface. Turns out the spectator was from Ireland and told the Golf Channel that Watson’s stinger didn’t hurt at all because it hit him in his "Irish beer belly [that] he’s been working on for a long time."
There was a chance for music fans to enjoy a free concert for ticket holders by Irish music group the Irish Rovers. The concert was very well attended and many Irish flags were again visible at the fan area just off the 17th fairway.
A perfect way to end a perfect Saturday at the Barclays. Irish fans would surely agree.