Free head helps Rory McIlroy end 18-month win drought

Rory Mc Ilroy

Five birdies in his final six holes saw Rory McIlroy capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, in turn, end an 18-month win drought - the longest run since winning his first tour title in Dubai.

The four-time major champion rose to the occasion among a stacked leaderboard at Bay Hill, which included 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods, carding an eight-under-par 64 to see off Bryson DeChambeau by three strokes.

It's McIlroy's first win since the 2016 Tour Championship and the first with new caddie Harry Diamond on the bag. For the tournament, McIlroy led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained: putting (+2.503).

The last of those stats was particularly impressive given McIlroy's struggles with the flat stick so far this season (-0.107) but some advice from former tour pro Brad Faxon and being armed with new a TaylorMade TP Black Copper Soto helped spark the impressive turnaround - with McIlroy full of praise for Faxon.

Rory Mc Ilroy Harry Diamond

“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” said McIlroy, who moved up to No. 7 in the world.

“I sort of felt like maybe [I was] complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.

"You look at so many guys out here, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole, even going back to the likes of Billy Mayfair or someone that is very unorthodox but still got it done. The objective is to get that ball in the hole, and that’s it.

"I think I lost sight of that a little bit. That sounds silly, I guess, but just reminded myself that it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as that thing goes in, and that’s sort of the mindset I had this week."

Woods, meanwhile, was within one shot of the lead at a point on the back nine but ended up finishing eight back of McIlroy after a bogey at the 16th hole, where his tee shot flew out of bounds.

Still though, it was a fifth-placed finish for the 14-time major champion and, in his last start before teeing it up in the Masters in less than three weeks' time, he feels as though he's in as good a spot as he could be at this point.

"To be in contention, if you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments, I would have taken that in a heartbeat."

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