Rory McIlroy drew comparisons with the game's two greatest living major winners for his WGC-Cadillac Match Play win over Gary Woodland at Harding Park.
In truth, it’s stretching it a bit far to compare a man with 10 PGA Tour wins on the eve of his 26th birthday to Jack Nicklaus' 26 victories by the age of 25 or Tiger Woods' 17. Even McIlroy thought it was a bit much.
Flattering as it might be, he runs a mile from any Tiger-Jack comparisons for obvious reasons. He's just happy he's learning to close out wins in clinical fashion, which is something he'd always struggled with in the past.
"Every time I have a win, I keep hearing those guys' names come up," he said when contrived Jack-Tiger statistical comparison was thrown his way.
"It's great to be mentioned with the likes of Tiger and Jack, the two greatest players that I think have ever played this game. I'm on my journey, I'll see where I get to. But right now I'm really happy with my 10th win. And I'm going to go after my 11th next week at TPC."
What does bear thinking about is the way the Northern Irish star managed to see off all comers with something less than his A game, just as Floyd Mayweather did no more than he had to do to beat Manny Pacquaio in the fight that McIlroy was forced to watch in the media centre on Saturday night.
Perhaps it was just as well that the made-for-TV starting times in San Francisco meant he couldn't use his ringside seat and had to get up in the middle of the night to prepare to complete his quarter-final match with Paul Casey on Sunday morning.
Whatever about the format of the event and the TV times, McIlroy fully deserved the win, his cheque for $1,570,000 and his second World Golf Championship title.
At times his driving and iron play were out of the very top drawer but even when they were not, his short game was so deadly that he beat Jason Dufner (5&4) and Brandt Snedeker (2 up) before knocking out, Billy Horschel (20th), Hideki Matsuyama (6&5), Paul Casey (22 holes) and Jim Furyk (1 up) with some clutch play down the stretch.
Even though he was friendly with Gary Woodland in the final, he was able to flick the ruthless switch crush him 4 and 2 in a final that was more a exhibition of survival skills than anything else.
“I’m really proud of the character I showed in recovering from some deficits,“ McIlroy said afterwards. “I got a lot of matchplay confidence with the way I beat Rickie [Fowler] at the Ryder Cup last year and with this being my first American win of the year I am very satisfied.”
It was l an impressive performance by McIlroy, who had to dig deep several times during a long week to get past the lines of Horschel (2 down with 2 to go), Casey (1 down with 2 to go) and Furyk (1 down with 2 to go) to win each time.
Against Horschel he holed a long birdie putt at the 17th and then birdied the last to force extra holes before eventually polishing off the FedEx Cup champion on the 20th.
He crushed Matsuyama and then dodged another bullet against an under the weather Casey — he’d been up all night vomiting — polishing him off with a two putt birdie on the first on Sunday morning, the fourth extra hole, when they eventually resumed their quarterfinal at 6.45 am.
Jim Furyk was McIlroy semi-final foe but while the wily old campaigner putted brilliantly to fashion a one up lead with two holes to go thanks to a clutch half in birdies at the 16th, McIlroy finished birdie-eagle to beat him, hitting stunning shot to four feet at the 17th before cruelly slotting a 44 footer at the last.
Having played 108 holes, the Ulsterman was understandably tired for the final and it was scrappy early on - they started birdie-bogey-bogey - before McIlroy’s putter took over.
He birdied the fifth (3ft), sixth (36ft) and seventh (14ft) to go four up and then escaped when Woodland won the 11th and 12th to get back to two down only to miss a four footer at the 13th that would have reduced the deficit to just one hole.
They halved it in bogey fours but there would be no need for any late heroics this time as he won the 14th in par to go three up before closing out a 4 and 2 win at the 16th.
"Yeah, that stretch on the front nine, it was really important," McIlroy said of the final. "The conditions were a little more blustery this afternoon, so it made things a little trickier. But once I got a lead and made a couple of birdies, as you said, in the middle of the front nine and got that lead, I felt a lot more comfortable.
"I think sometimes finals can't rival the quality of previous matches. And even today, we both played pretty well, but I'm sure we played better golf throughout the week. But I'm happy to obviously get up, I think I was 4‑up through 9, and he came back at me a little bit early on. But he let me away with one on 13. He didn't convert there. And I took advantage of that on the next couple of holes."
Danny Willett lost 3 and 2 to Woodland in the semi-finals but beat Furyk 3&2 in the third place play-off, effectively earning his PGA Tour card as a Special Temporary Member with unlimited invitations ahead.]
Web,com Tour — Seamus Power tied for 62nd in the United Leasing Championship in Indiana, taking a quadruple bogey eight at the last as he carded final round 76 to finish on nine over.
Smylie Kaufman won by five shots on 10 under par after a closing 73.