Arriving at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta six strokes behind top seed Scottie Scheffler, the Northern Irishman trailed by the same margin heading into the decisive day. Still, as world No. 1 Scheffler suffered the worst of the joint round with three of 73, McIlroy shot a 66 to edge American and South Korean Im Sung-jae by a single shot to 21 under. .

He marked the biggest final-round comeback in Tour Championship history, beating Colombian Camilo Villegas’ five-stroke recovery in 2008. Only Justin Thomas and Sam Burns have overturned bigger deficits on the Tour all season, winner of seven strokes at the PGA Championship and respectively the Charles Schwab Challenge.

Following FedEx Cup victories in 2016 and 2019, the triumph at East Lake sees McIlroy stand out from Tiger Woods – winner of the inaugural event in 2007 – as the only player to win the title three times.

“It’s really cool to do something in golf that nobody’s ever done before,” McIlroy told reporters.

“Obviously the history of the FedEx Cup is not as long as the history of some other tournaments, but to come out of here three times champion is very, very satisfying and something that I am incredibly proud.”

McIlroy was rewarded with $18 million in prize money for his 22nd PGA Tour victory, securing a triumphant end to a stellar season tinged with major disappointment.

With victories at the CJ Cup and the Canadian Open, the 33-year-old has consistently impressed with 10 top-10 finishes in 16 events. Nowhere was this form more evident than at the majors, where McIlroy finished only eighth in all four events.

Rory McIlroy throws a fan's remote-controlled ball into the water at the BMW Championship
Yet after finishing runner-up at the Masters in April and letting agonizing victory elude him at the 150th Open Championship in July, McIlroy’s superb form has failed to deliver the fifth major triumph he’s been chasing since winning the PGA Championship in 2014.

With McIlroy comparing the campaign to 2019, where he also recorded three Tour wins, caddy Harry Diamond felt it was a fitting end to the season.

“On the 18th green today, [Harry] says, “All the great golf you’ve played this year, you deserve it,” McIlroy said.

“I said throughout this year, this season was very, very similar to 2019. I played great golf. I had some good wins but didn’t win a major tournament.”

McIlroy starts in fourth.

Player of the year?

For Scheffler, a narrow defeat marked the painful end to a phenomenal season in which triumph at the Masters headlined four victories and 11 top 10s on the Tour.

Opening with a 65 and two 66s, the American’s triumph seemed like a procession before three bogeys through the first six holes on Sunday opened the door for McIlroy, who – despite opening with a bogey – took responded with a trio of birdies across the same run.

A superb birdie putt from McIlroy on the 15th followed by a bogey from Scheffler on the next hole proved decisive, as the Northern Irishman tapped home last to win with par. After a brief celebratory fist pump, McIlroy went straight to hug Scheffler.

McIlroy pumps his fist after birdie on the 15th hole.

“Scottie Scheffler is going to win Player of the Year, there’s no question about it. It would have been fitting for him to end his season with a FedEx Cup title,” McIlroy said.

“He deserves it maybe more than I deserve it, he played an amazing season. He didn’t have his best thing today, and I played well and enjoyed it.

“It’s tough. You don’t really know what to say on the 18th green because he’s had such a great year, but he’ll be back and he’s a great player, and I told him that’s definitely not not the last time we’re going to have these battles on the golf course.”

Scheffler comes out of the bunker on the 18th green.

Despite his disappointment, Scheffler was equally graceful in the loss.

“I really fought hard today. Rory just played a really good round of golf. He made some key putts at the end, and he really deserved to win,” he said.

“I had a really good year and I wanted to end it with a win here, and unfortunately I couldn’t do it. But in the end, it’s such a gift to be here trying golf for money, and I’m so grateful to be here.”

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