Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Entering the World Golf Championship- Cadillac Match Play Championship, there were plenty of questions surrounding the new format.
Now that the event is in the books, there is little question as to who the best player was over the five days of the tournament.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy cemented his spot atop the world rankings with seven wins over five days. He said the momentum he got from his trouncing of Rickie Fowler at last year's Ryder Cup carried over seven months into this event.
McIlroy was a one-man wrecking crew, taking out Americans at the Match Play like he was playing the Ryder Cup 1-on-12. He dispatched former PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, 5 & 4, in his first match.
Americans Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel took McIlroy the distance. The Ulsterman birdied the 18th to beat Snedeker, 2-up, on Thursday. In his final round-robin matchup against Horschel, McIlroy started his theme for the remainder of the weekend.
Trailing 2-down with two holes to play, McIlroy birdied the final two holes to force extra holes. When Horschel failed to save par after missing the green on the second extra hole, McIlroy was on to the round of 16 with a perfect 3-0 mark.
After trouncing Hideki Matsuyama, McIlroy trailed late before beating England's Paul Casey in 22 holes, which tied for the longest match of the week. Jim Furyk had McIlroy on the ropes again, but McIlroy closed birdie- eagle to turn a 1-down deficit into a 1-up win.
The final pitted McIlroy against Gary Woodland, his fifth American opponent.
McIlroy never trailed, though. After Woodland bogeyed the fourth, McIlroy birdied three in a row to jump 4-up through seven holes. It could have been worse for Woodland had McIlroy not three-putted back-to-back holes early in the match.
Woodland fought back within 2-down, but then missed a four-footer that would have gotten him within 1-down. He bogeyed the next and the match was over two holes later.
The victory was notable for several reasons.
Over the last 75 years, only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus had won 10 titles before their 26th birthday. McIlroy joined them in that small group as he turned 26 on Monday, the day after his win.
McIlroy is the ninth player with multiple World Golf Championship titles, and joins Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only three players to hold two major championship titles and two World Golf Championship crowns at the same time.
This title didn't come easy. McIlroy trailed on the 16th hole or later three times, including in back-to-back matches against Casey and Furyk.
The win was McIroy's first in the United States this year. He may not have had his best form all week, but came out on top. The same couldn't be said for his previous three U.S. starts at Doral, Bay Hill and Augusta National, where he played well at times, but didn't do enough to grab the title.
Now that McIlroy has broken through in the United States this year, will he go on a run like he did last year with three straight wins? We'll find out this week as he heads to TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship.
ROUGH WEEKEND FOR OFFICIALS
Golf officials are rarely seen unless a player needs a ruling. On Friday at the Match Play Championship, a ruling involving Keegan Bradley turned heated when his opponent Miguel Angel Jimenez got involved.
Jimenez explained after the round that he wanted to make sure Bradley was taking the proper drop away from a fence and a cart path. There was an official with Bradley as he was going through the process of where to drop his golf ball.
With Jimenez interjecting his opinion, things got heated. Bradley told Jimenez to go back to his ball, and there was an official there to help him. More words were exchanged between the players, and Bradley's caddie got involved as well. After Jimenez told the caddie to shut up, Bradley went face-to-face with Jimenez.
Neither player handled the situation well, and the caddie shouldn't have gotten involved to the extent he did, but the official did nothing. He should have stepped in and told the players to calm down, and he would make sure things were handled properly.
At the Champions Tour event in Texas, Michael Allen was put off by an official telling him he was on the clock for slow play. Allen questioned why not the whole group instead of just him.
According to Allen, the official said Allen was being extremely slow and the only one with bad times.
Following that exchange, Allen bogeyed the 13th to fall out of the lead. He missed a playoff by one stroke. The penalty cost him nearly $200,000 - the difference between his tying for fourth, where he finished, and winning the title.
By the way, Allen was in the last group and his threesome was not far out of position.
Allen agreed the official was in the right by telling him he was slow, but he didn't like the manner in which the official informed him of his bad time.
Neither situation was handled well, and there was plenty of blame to go around in both cases. The players and officials needed to be better, and can learn from how things went wrong.
* Joost Luiten gained special temporary membership on the PGA Tour thanks to his third-place finish at the Match Play. He can now receive unlimited sponsor invitations the remainder of the season after earning more FedExCup points than Johnson Wagner earned last season, when he finished 150th on the FedExCup points list.
* It looks as though LPGA commissioner Michael Whan erred in not giving 17- year-old Brooke Henderson full membership on tour this year as she requested last fall. After finishing third at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, the young Canadian flew to Texas and won the Monday qualifier after sleeping in the airport the night before. She led after two rounds before fading into a share of 13th. As if the LPGA didn't already have enough young talent, Henderson will be added to that list soon enough.