McIlroy: "My game isn't where it needs to be"
Rory McIlroy 

Rory McIlroy 

One stat summed up the Northern Trust Open for Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.

The closer you are to the hole with your approach shots, the easier it is to make birdies. 

Johnson's 95-yard lob wedge to three feet in the playoff against Jordan Spieth, coupled with the 341-yard drive over the lake that set up his winning birdie, shows where he is right now.

When it came to proximity to the hole, Johnson ranked first in New York with an average birdie putt of 25' 1". McIlroy was ranked 70th (and last of those who made the cut) with 44' 3". He was also 69th of 70 for driving accuracy.

"My game isn't where it needs to be," McIlroy said after closing with a two over 72 for a share of 34th on two-over.

"But it's okay. Conditions were tricky out there. This afternoon the course played quite firm and fairways were bouncing out a lot and sort of, yeah, it was hard to hit fairways, hard to hit greens."

McIlroy hinted that had he not shown his "battling qualities" it could have been a lot uglier. 

But rather than rushing straight to the range to practice, he plans to "maybe make some rehearsal swings in the mirror over the next couple days" and leave the heavy practice until he gets to TPC Boston for his defence of the Dell Technologies Championship, which begins on Friday.

McIlroy plans to take three months off following the Playoffs and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship to get his body and his game in shape, as he reiteratated on Friday:

"I want to play well these next few weeks but I keep saying, I've got one eye on the last three months of this year, and I'm excited to go on that journey and hopefully turn up in 2018 a better golfer, a healthier golfer and start -- not the second half of my career, but I think if you're in a job for so long, you can take a sabbatical for a few weeks, and I feel like this is my sabbatical. I feel like I can sort of refresh my mind, reset and start over again.

Q. Do you think you are going from caterpillar (ph) to butterfly?
RORY McILROY: (Laughter) I do like that. I'm getting there. I'd love to live in a cocoon, protect myself from everything, that would be nice. Yeah, definitely, I feel like I've been through a bit of a journey this year, not just on the course; off the course, as well, and things have changed in my life."

One wonders if McIlroy might not have been better off advancing his winter break to get fully fit. But he believes he can still do something in the Playoffs and will arrive in Boston ranked 43rd in the FedEx Cup standings behind Johnson, who shot as 66 to Spieth's 69, overcoming what was a five-stroke deficit after five holes of the final round to win on the first extra hole.

The world No 1, who appears to be back to the level he showed before injuring his back falling down the stairs on the eve of the Masters, made a 17 footer for par at the 18th to force the playoff and now has 16 PGA Tour wins.

Spieth began the final round with a three-stroke lead and extended it to five before posting his only double bogey of the tournament at the par-three, sixth hole when he hit his tee shot in the water. 

After a bogey at the ninth hole and a birdie by Johnson at No. 10, the pair were tied at 11-under and eventually finished tied at 13-under.

Johnson's win means he extends his lead at the top of the world rankings with Spieth moving up to second ahead of Hideki Matsuyama.

McIlroy is a distant fourth, just 0.1 points ahead of Jon Rahm.

Shane Lowry remains at 80th in the world with Graeme McDowell now down to 120th and Pádraig Harrington 154th.

Greystones' Paul Dunne moved up three spots to  176th in the world following his tie for 14th behind maiden winner Julian Suri of the USA in the Made in Denmark.

Dunne is 33rd in the Race to Dubai with €702,372 and he will be keen to push on over the next few weeks as the top-30 get into The Open at Carnoustie and top-20 qualify for next year's World Golf Championships.

On the Challenge Tour, Gavin Moynihan's tie for eighth in the Rolex Trophy in Switzerland means he is 23rd in the Road to Oman standings with €44,203 — just over €4,000 outside the top 15 who will win full playing rights to play on the European Tour next season.

There are 10 events remaining and Moynihan is in France this week for the Cordon Golf Open with Ruaidhri McGee (63rd in the Road to Oman), Michael Hoey (67th), Cormac Sharvin (89th), Gary Hurley (130th), Kevin Phelan (181st), Chris Selfridge (213th), Tommy O'Driscoll and Rory McNamara.