SYDNEY – Rory McIlroy birdied the 18th hole to snatch victory from Adam Scott at the Emirates Australian Open on Sunday, winning for the first time in 2013 and denying Scott the rare Australian triple crown.
McIlroy started the last round four shots behind Scott but drew level when he eagled the seventh and birdied the eighth.
Scott went a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth then the pair went shot for shot over the back nine before the tournament's dramatic climax on the final hole.
Scott's approach shot went over the back of the green and his resultant chip went well past the hole, with two putts bringing a bogey. McIlroy hit his approach to 10 feet and sank the putt to claim victory by a shot and end his long wait for a trophy.
"I wanted to get a win and finally I've been able to get one," McIlroy said. "But more satisfying than that is being able to take one of the best players in the world down the stretch and come out on top.
"Adam is a phenomenal golfer, a great competitor and probably an even better guy and I feel a bit sorry that I was the one that ruined the triple crown for him."
Scott was attempting to be only the second player after compatriot Robert Allenby in 2005 to win Australia's triple crown by claiming the Australian Open, Australian Masters and Australian PGA Championship titles in the same season.
He carried his form from the Masters and PGA tournaments into the Open, shattering the Royal Sydney course record by three shots with a 10-under par 62 in his opening round.
He came into the final day at 16 under par, with rounds of 62, 70 and 68, four shots ahead of McIlroy who was a further four shots ahead of the next challenger.
That effectively made Sunday's final round a shootout between the No. 2-ranked Scott and Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who was the world's top-ranked player last year and entered the week at No. 6.
Scott was left to rue a series of missed birdie opportunities, failing to hole six putts from within 12 feet during his final round.
"The putter didn't behave itself," he said. "That's the way golf is."
Both players took irons from the tee on the last hole and landed their shots adjacent to each other on the fairway. Scott's approach landed in front of the hole, but a cruel bounce sent the ball flying through the back of the green.
Rather than pitch and run back onto the green, Scott chose to give his chip some loft. It failed to pull up, rolling down onto the lower tier of the green, and the local favorite did well to salvage a bogey.
McIlroy stood assessing his 10-foot birdie putt during Scott's excursions, and after Scott holed out, McIlroy rolled in a slow putt that just made it to the hole.
McIlroy finished with an 18 under par tally of 270, a shot ahead of Scott, who was a further six shots ahead of Australian John Senden at 11 under.
Senden and compariots Bryden MacPherson and Rhein Gibson, who tied for fourth at 9 under, all qualified for next year's British Open.