McIlroy wins second straight FedEx Cup playoff event
Rory McIlroy faced the strongest collection of contenders at any golf tournament this year Sunday at the BMW Championship in Carmel, Ind. It was no contest.
McIlroy fine-tuned his swing and missed only one fairway at soggy Crooked Stick, powering his way to a 5-under 67 to win his second straight FedEx Cup playoff event. Those wins followed a record win at the PGA Championship, giving him three wins in his last four starts to establish himself as the dominant player in golf.
He became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour, and with his sixth career tour win, he joined Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win that many at age 23.
"The more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal," McIlroy said after his two-shot win over Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood. "And it feels like this is what you're supposed to do."
For the longest time, this was what Woods used to do.
"I don't think I'm quite there yet," McIlroy said. "But I'm getting to that stage where I'm thinking, 'This is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week.' It's been great. The last four, five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I've ever played. I'm going to try and keep the run going for as long as possible."
Never mind that Mickelson and Vijay Singh — Hall of Famers with 74 tour wins and seven majors between them — were one shot ahead going into Sunday. Or that Westwood, a former world No. 1, was playing alongside. Or that Woods was close behind.
McIlroy made back-to-back birdies around the turn to emerge from a four-way tie, and he turned back one last challenge from Westwood and Mickelson with clutch pars. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland didn't make a bogey until the 18th hole.
"By that time, I had sort of done enough," he said.
Woods was never seriously in the mix. Five shots behind with seven holes to play, he made three late birdies and shot 68.
McIlroy is the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup finale in two weeks at East Lake, but any of the top five seeds can win the Tour Championship and capture the FedEx Cup with its $10 million bonus. The other four seeds are Woods, Nick Watney, Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker.
"Rory is putting on a show out there," Woods said. "And we've got one more tournament."
■ Peter Hanson eagled the final hole to win the KLM Open, his fifth European Tour victory. Hanson holed a 35-footer on the 18th green Sunday in Hilversum, Netherlands, to win by two strokes.
Creamer, Shin tied after 8 playoff holes
Paula Creamer and Jiyai Shin had to wait until Monday to break their deadlock in the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va.
After they each parred the par-4 18th hole eight times in a playoff Sunday, darkness forced the suspension of play for the day. They will resume play Monday morning on the par-4 16th hole.
Serena Williams rallies to win U.S. Open
Finally tested, even trailing, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams turned things around just in time. Two points from defeat, Williams suddenly regained her composure and her strokes, coming back to win the last four games and beat No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 on Sunday night for her fourth championship at Flushing Meadows in New York. It's her 15th Grand Slam title overall.
"I honestly can't believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, 'Man, she's playing so great," Williams said during the trophy presentation, adding: "I'm really shocked."
There hadn't been a three-set women's finals in New York since 1995, and Williams came through with a late charge to become the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season since she did it a decade ago.
"Serena deserves the win. She showed how true of a champion she is," Azarenka said. "I definitely gave it all today. Stepping out of this court today, I will have no regrets."
Azarenka hadn't dropped a three-set match all season until Sunday, going 12-0 in matches that went the distance, including victories over defending U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals and 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.
Djokovic to play Murray in men's finals
The weather was much better at the U.S. Open on Sunday. So was Novak Djokovic. The defending champion got his game into high gear and reached his third consecutive finals by beating fourth-seeded David Ferrer 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in a match suspended a day earlier.
"I was a different player," the second-seeded Djokovic said. "I felt much more comfortable on the court today than I did yesterday, (when) obviously the conditions were more brutal."
Ferrer led a shaky Djokovic 5-2 in the semifinal's opening set Saturday, when wind was whipping at more than 20 mph and play was halted because of an impending rainstorm. When they resumed about 18 hours later, Ferrer held serve to take that set — and then Djokovic quickly took control, using the brand of defense-to-offense baseline excellence that has carried the Serb to four of the past seven Grand Slam titles.
"We were all praying for less wind today," Djokovic said. "He handled the wind much better than I did."
In Monday's finals, Djokovic will face Olympic champion Andy Murray, who beat Tomas Berdych 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7) on Saturday. It's the fifth consecutive year the U.S. Open men's title match has been played a day later than planned.
"I don't think there's any clear favorite," Djokovic said. "He's looking for his first Grand Slam title. I'm sure he's going to be very motivated, and hopefully we can come up with our best tennis for this crowd."
Djokovic leads the head-to-head series against Murray 8-6 but lost their most recent matchup in the semifinals of the London Games.
Broken collarbone sidelines Alvarado
Jockey Junior Alvarado will miss four to five weeks with a broken collarbone suffered in a spill on Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Alvarado was unseated in the seventh race when his mount, Palace, collided with a rival. Palace stumbled and fell but did not appear to be injured.
Alvarado, 26, tied for sixth in the jockey standings with 23 wins during the Saratoga meet that concluded on Labor Day. He ranks 10th this year in national purse earnings with more than $8.2 million.
Soccer teams both come up short
Fourth-ranked Charlotte used a goal in the 26th minute and a strong effort from goalkeeper Klay Davis to defeat the Kentucky men's soccer team 1-0 in the finale of the UK Invitational Tournament at the UK Soccer Complex. The Cats (1-4-0) have played three top-25 opponents in their first five matches.
■ Freshman Cailin Harris scored her first-career goal in the Kentucky women's soccer team's 3-1 loss to Samford in the final game of the Cardinal Classic in Louisville.
The last word
The fallout from NASCAR's regular-season finale in Richmond, won by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer, included that team getting two drivers in the playoffs — Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. So it was a big night for Owensboro native Michael Waltrip, one of the team's owners:
"I'm thankful. I'm obviously really happy with having two cars in the Chase. My inspiration for having a team from the beginning was Dale Earnhardt. I always wanted to have a team like Dale had. So anytime something goes good, I always think about what all he meant to me."