Rory McIlroy hits number one

Rory McIlroy held off a charging Tiger Woods to win the Honda Classic in Florida and move to the top of the world rankings for the first time.

McIlroy had to show off all his scrambling skills in the final round at PGA National with his one-under 69 enough to win the title by two shots and end Luke Donald’s nine-month reign as world number one.

The Northern Irishman, who started the final round with a two-shot lead, was wayward for much of the front nine but managed to get to the turn in one-under thanks to a birdie at eight and a number of saves from off the green – in fact he never missed a putt from inside 10 feet all day.

Woods showed ominous signs of a return to his best with an eight-under 62 that finished in sensational fashion with a birdie at the tough 17th and a scintillating eagle at the last where his second shot left a putt of barely eight feet.

Tiger, who had started the final round in tied 18th and nine shots off the pace, was just one back at the point but McIlroy responded immediately with a birdie at 13 to restore his two-shot advantage.

McIlroy then held his nerve through “The Bear Trap”, the tough stretch from 15-17, getting up and down from the back bunker at 15 and then repeating the feat at the 190-yard 17th.

He then powered a huge tee-shot down the watery par-five and took the safe option of laying-up to make sure of a par, a first trophy of 2012 and end his quest for the coveted title of world number one.

Woods’ 62 put him in a tie for second place with Tom Gillis, who holed a fine birdie putt at the 18th.

Somewhat overshadowed was the superb closing 63 by Lee Westwood.

That saw the Englishman finish four shots back in fourth, one ahead of compatriot Justin Rose who missed a series of short putts and finished tied fifth with Masters champ Charl Schwartzel.

After accepting the trophy, a jubilant McIlroy said: “First and foremost it’s just great to win this tournament.

“It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge, seeing him post 10-under. I knew par golf would probably be good enough today and that’s what I was trying to do and to shoot one-under par in these conditions when you go into the round in the lead is very nice and I was just able to get the job done.

“My short game all week has been very good and it’s what you need on a tough golf course like this. You know you’re not going to hit every green and when you do put yourself in a bit of bother you need to get it up and down and I was able to do that, especially on 15 and 17 today when I needed to make pars there.

“My short definitely saved me a few times today.”

The victory was McIlroy’s third PGA Tour victory.

He won at Quail Hollow in 2010 with a closing course record 62 and then last June, of course, was the youngest winner of the US Open since 1923 – by eight shots and with a record score by four.

Woods, who had two eagles and four birdies in his 62, said: “I’ve been hitting it like this, that’s the thing.

“I hit it really good in the wind in Australia and thought there was no reason I couldn’t do it again – and putt like I did the last two days. It came together.”