ST ANDREWS, September 29, 2019 – Fleetwood and Phipps win Team Championship in thrilling tussle with McIlroys
Close friends Tommy Fleetwood and Ogden Phipps edged out Rory and Gerry McIlroy in a thrilling finish at St Andrews to claim the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship.
With rounds of 62 and 61 respectively, both teams ended on 39-under-par for the tournament – meaning that Fleetwood’s brilliant individual score of 64 decided it ahead of McIlroy’s final round of 67.
Playing two groups behind Fleetwood and American businessman Phipps, the McIlroys were matching their rivals shot for shot as, having teed off the 10th, they were making their runs for Team Championship glory downwind on the Old Course’s front nine.
And it all came down to whether either Rory or his dad Gerry could fashion an eagle two on the almost-driveable 352-yard par four 9th to get them to 40-under par. Hitting first, Rory came up ten yards short of the green and Gerry, who plays off a three handicap and was driving from the amateurs’ forward tee, almost made the putting surface with a terrific 300-yard blow.
Rory’s chip came up just short, for a tap-in birdie, while Gerry’s long putt was just an inch wide of the hole before coming to rest seven feet past the flag.
Fleetwood and Phipps, by now watching the drama on television, could start celebrating – knowing that their ten-under-par round had propelled them out of reach of every remaining team still out on the course.
Phipps said: “Wow – thank you Dunhill for this whole experience. I’ve known Tommy since he was 19 and we’ve played together in this event seven times now. My wife Ashley and Tommy’s wife Clare are also very good friends and Tommy stayed with us during the summer when he came over to play in the US PGA Championship. We’ve had dinner together every night this week and we speak regularly on the phone.”
While perhaps not quite ‘Moliwood’ – the moniker given to Fleetwood’s close friendship and brilliant on-course pairing with Francesco Molinari at last year’s Ryder Cup – the ‘Oggywood’ partnership certainly dovetailed perfectly this week as they shot 63, 64, 60 and 62 on three of Scotland’s greatest links courses.
Fleetwood said: “It really means a lot to win this team event. I’ve known Ogden a long time and we’ve played in it a lot. I said to Ogden on the 5th hole coming in: ‘How are you feeling?’ and he said: ‘I’m going to need you on these last few holes!’ He was nervous coming down the stretch, but he was great. It means a lot when it’s not just for myself, it’s a partnership. It was a nice way to finish the week.
“It’s actually like winning a tournament, just watching the pro-am scores coming in and feeling nervous for myself and Ogden. It was so much fun playing together. The team score also helped me because it took the focus off what I was doing, and actually I was really concentrating on the team. I think that just helped me mentally.”
Phipps added: “It’s the fourth time I’ve made the team cut but obviously to go on and win it is just amazing.”
McIlroy paid tribute to his father afterwards, who turns 60 next week, saying: “We shot 61, 62, 61 on the last three days. My dad played great, and we gave it a really good run.
“Dad’s golf has been incredible this week. He’s had four or five net eagles and he’s only been getting three strokes as an amateur. He shot three-under gross at Kingsbarns on Friday, and he must have shot two or three-under on his own ball on the back nine coming in yesterday and today it was the same sort of thing. He’s played really, really well.
“He’s had a great time as we’ve both had. This is probably the first time we’ve been in contention to win the team event, as well, so it was good fun. It was great to see my dad play so well, and we gave it our all.”
Only the top 20 teams qualify for the fourth and final round at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, with the professional in the winning team earning a US$50,000 cheque.