ATLANTA — Rory McIlroy’s rolling stroll up the final fairway Sunday at the Tour Championship contained less theater than last year’s walk, when he was nearly swallowed up by the swarm of spectators that fell in line behind Tiger Woods, who was closing out his first win since 2013.
Playing in the final pairing with Woods, McIlroy receded into the background, finishing six strokes back in a tie for seventh. McIlroy was back in the final pairing this year, playing alongside the world No. 1, Brooks Koepka. This time he finished head and shoulders above everyone.
McIlroy, who started the final round one stroke behind Koepka, won the tournament and the FedEx Cup for the second time in four years. He posted a four-under 66 — tying Adam Scott, the sixth-place finisher, for the low closing score — for a 72-hole total of 18-under.
McIlroy, the 2016 champion, finished four strokes ahead of Xander Schauffele (70) to collect the $15 million winner’s bonus. In the 13-year history of the playoffs, McIlroy is the second player, after Woods in 2007 and 2018, to win multiple FedEx Cup championships.
Finishing five strokes back at 13-under was Koepka, who closed with a 72 to tie for third with Justin Thomas and muddle the Player of the Year picture.
Will Koepka’s three victories — which included a World Golf Championships tournament and his fourth major, at the P.G.A. Championship — trump McIlroy’s three victories — which included Sunday’s season finale and the tour’s signature event, the Players Championship?
McIlroy, 30, came into the week ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup point standings, which meant he started the first round at 5-under, five strokes behind Thomas and two behind Koepka, who was third in the playoff race.
He said Wednesday that a victory should earn him Player of the Year consideration, given that it would be his 14th top-10 finish in 19 tour starts.
“I feel like I’ve been very consistent,” said McIlroy, who didn’t exactly display the arrogance of his argument in his stump speech to the tour members who will vote on the award.
Ticking off Koepka’s accomplishments, McIlroy added, “I’d completely understand if people went that way.”
At the conclusion of Sunday morning’s weather-delayed finish of the third round, McIlroy was tied for second with Schauffele, who won the Tour Championship as a rookie in 2017. Schauffele, 25, birdied the second to briefly grab a share of the lead, but a bogey two holes later slowed his charge.
The tournament turned on the 490-yard seventh, a straightforward par-4. McIlroy lashed a 334-yard drive, hit his approach to 23 feet and sank the birdie putt. Koepka, who carried a two-stroke lead to the tee box, lost his ball to set up a double bogey that effectively scuttled his title hopes. He rebounded with a birdie at the par-4 eighth, but lost ground on the back nine with three consecutive bogeys.
McIlroy said at the start of the week that his goal was to shoot 67 every round for a 12-under total. “No one should beat me if I do that,” he said.
For purists for whom the score relative to par is paramount, McIlroy shot 13-under (66, 68, 67, 66), one stroke better than his victorious total in 2016.
“Such a cool way to end what has been for me a great season,” McIlroy said in a television interview on the 18th green after his final putt.
He added: “I feel like I could have won more. But to win the FedEx Cup again, to persist the whole way throughout the year, to keep giving myself chances even when I was getting knocked back and not be denied, I’m very proud of myself.”
McIlroy came into the week with nearly $50 million in career tour earnings, so Sunday’s $15 million payday won’t change his life. But the amount of money on the line seemed to seep into McIlroy’s consciousness on the 14th and 15th holes when he made consecutive bogeys to shrink his lead to two.
He righted himself with a nine-foot par save at No. 16, then galloped in with a 16-foot birdie at 17, and a six-footer for birdie at 18.
Once McIlroy and Koepka reached the final green, then the theater began, with fans streaming onto the fairway. Soon chants of “Rory! Rory!” rang out.
He walked off the green rubbing his thumbs across his fingers in a “show me the money” gesture.
McIlroy described the scene coming up 18 last year as “obviously a great moment for golf and cool to be a part of, I guess.” But he expressed no ambiguity about what Sunday’s finish meant to him.
“To play like that alongside Brooks and get the win, win the FedEx Cup, yeah, it’s awesome,” McIlroy said. “It’s amazing how different things can be in a year.”