Sunday's notable notes: Rory's rally comes up short
It was a memorable finish to The 146th Open, where Jordan Spieth edged Matt Kuchar to become Champion Golfer of the Year.
But there were plenty of other notable moments during the final round at Royal Birkdale, as several other players tried to close the gap on the two men out in front:
Rory McIlroy’s late rally comes up short. The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year put a charge into the Southport crowds with an eagle on the 17th hole, and at 5 under he finished the week tied for fourth. It’s an impressive result given his disastrous start to the opening round, but McIlroy’s final challenge was derailed by an errant tee ball on the par-5 15th that led to a critical bogey.
Haotong Li caps a career week. The unheralded 21-year-old was making just his second career start in a major, but he closed in style with a birdie on the 72nd hole to close out a final-round 63. It didn’t match Branden Grace’s record setting total from the day prior, but it still boosted Li into solo third place and ensured that he’ll have a spot at both the 2018 Masters and The 147th Open at Carnoustie.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello continues his links success. One week after the Spaniard won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in a playoff, he closed with weekend rounds of 67-68 to join McIlroy in a tie for fourth, seven shots behind Spieth. Cabrera-Bello dropped only two shots over his final 36 holes to notch his best career finish in a major and show once again that his game can flourish on links courses.
Brooks Koepka falls short of a major double. Koepka started the day in a tie for third, still with an outside chance of becoming the latest player to win back-to-back majors. But his bogey on the opening hole set the tone, as Koepka registered only one birdie over the first 14 holes. While his tie for sixth was a more than respectable showing, it still left him short of his goal after his triumph last month at Erin Hills.
Marc Leishman adds another chapter of Open success. The affable Aussie lost in a playoff at The Open two years ago in St. Andrews, and he again closed with style at Royal Birkdale even if he couldn’t catch up to Spieth. Leishman followed a third-round 66 with a closing 65 to snag a share of sixth place, left to rue his 6-over 76 amid difficult conditions on Friday. It serves as Leishman’s third finish of T-6 or better in The Open over the last four years, as he also tied for fifth at Royal Liverpool in 2014.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson falters. Playing alongside the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson, Johnson got caught in a pot bunker on the first hole at Royal Birkdale and never recovered. He ultimately made six bogeys to go along with his opening double, carding a 7-over 77 that dropped him from a share of seventh into a tie for 54th at 4 over.