Rory McIlroy misery as final-hole hook into lake blows victory

 

One bad swing last night ended Rory McIlroy's hopes of going into his US Open title defence with a fourth PGA Tour victory.

The 23-year-old world No 2 was joint leader at the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis when he hooked into the middle of a lake off the final tee.

Then, by missing a four-foot putt, McIlroy double-bogeyed and dropped all the way to joint-seventh place.

The title went instead to American Ryder Cup player Dustin Johnson in only his second event after a back injury that kept him out of the game for over two months.

Johnson birdied two of the last three for a four-under-par 66 and on nine under a one-stroke victory over compatriot John Merrick, whose chip to force a play-off lipped out. "I was at home for 10 weeks or something – it was tough," said Johnson, who now moves back into the world's top 10.

"Last week I was a little rusty and did not finish off my rounds, but this week I finished a lot better."

Halfway leader McIlroy had resumed one behind Merrick, Davis Love and Nick O'Hern, but after birdies at the second, fourth, seventh and short 11th, where he almost holed in one, he found himself two in front.

After three successive missed cuts it was shaping up to be the perfect comeback, but it was not to be on a day when the top of the leaderboard changed 26 times. The Northern Irishman found water on the next and three-putted the 14th for another bogey before conjuring up a brilliant birdie at the penultimate hole.

Finding the left rough forced him to go under a tree with his approach, but he ran the ball up to 20 feet and sank the birdie putt to move alongside Johnson, Chad Campbell and Merrick.

Johnson had holed from 11 feet at the long 16th and as he followed that with an eight-footer both McIlroy and Campbell both dumped their final drives into the drink.

Campbell made bogey and ended up joint third with Ryder Cup captain Love, Ryan Palmer and Australian left-hander O'Hern, another to find the water on the last. England's Greg Owen closed with a 65 for joint 11th, while Dubliner Padraig Harrington and Scot Martin Laird shot 69s to be 13th and 24th.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood flew to San Francisco yesterday with high hopes of making it three European wins in a row at the US Open. The Englishman warmed up for the tilt at following Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy by storming to a five-stroke victory at the Nordea Masters in Sweden.

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