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McIlroy takes nearest-the-pin challenge to win The Match

Rory McIlroy won a nearest-the-pin tie-breaker to defeat Max Homa, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang in the latest edition of “Capital One’s The Match”.

The ninth edition of the exhibition golf series, including female players for the first time, brought the four golfers together for a 12-hole skins match under the lights at The Park golf course in Florida.

McIlroy won six of the first eight skins, with Thompson earning the other two, but a closest-to-the-pin challenge from 100 yards was required to produce an overall champion when nobody claimed the final four skins on offer.

Image: Rory McIlroy’s appearance was his second in editions of The Match

The former world No 1 went first and stuck his wedge shot to just over four feet from the flag, with McIlroy securing the victory when none of his playing partners were able to better his effort.

“I just think (I will remember) how much fun it was, being out here with Max [Homa] and Rose [Zhang] and Lexi [Thompson] and playing at such a great facility,” McIlroy said. “All these people out here, the atmosphere, it was a really cool night.”

How McIlroy claimed victory in The Match

The first skin was carried over after a share of the spoils at the first, with Thompson claiming two skins at the short par-four second after draining a 30-foot eagle from behind the green.

A one-club challenge was in operation at the par-four fourth hole, where McIlroy made a winning par worth two skins using a five-wood, with the Northern Irishman winning two more skins with an up-and-down birdie at the par-five sixth.

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McIlroy matched Zhang’s birdie effort at the par-five next before claiming two skins with a two-putt par from 30 feet at the eighth, then announced on the par-five 12th hole that an unidentified friend of his was donating $500,000 to bring the total remaining stakes to $1.6m.

After McIlroy missed an eagle putt and was given the birdie, Homa and Zhang each made their birdies to force the tie-break. Zhang was the closest challenger in the nearest-the-pin contest, hitting it inside eight feet.

McIlroy ended with 10 of the 12 skins available and won $2.4m for charity. It was just McIlroy’s second time participating in The Match series and his first win. He and Tiger Woods previously lost to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in the seventh edition of The Match.

What’s next?

The PGA Tour now has a run of four Florida-based events, starting with the Cognizant Classic – formerly know as the Honda Classic – at PGA National. Chris Kirk is defending champion, while McIlroy returns to an event he won in 2012.

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