"I played in six final groups past year, a lot of them coming from behind, and I probably just pushed a little too hard trying to catch up, trying to play a flawless first six holes and it didn't really work out for me", he said. He started the final round with a three-shot lead and closed with a bogey-free 68.
Eleven times since 2008, and the year of a first full season in McIlroy's career, he's begun a new year on the European Tour and on each occasion he's gone so close to success including on five occasions being runner-up in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy's challenge ended when he found thick grass off the 14th tee on his way to a bogey, while Woodland moved back alongside Schauffele with a two-putt birdie at the par-five next.
Woodland was watching, and he answered with an approach to 12 feet for the second birdie of the day.
Woodland, seeking his fourth PGA Tour win, used a streak of five consecutive birdies, beginning at the No. 11, to reach 12-under 134.
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Here on SunSport we'll be running our LIVE BLOG from Eastlands to keep you up to date with all the talking points and goals. "When they are on their own patch, as you saw against Liverpool , they're as good and as confident as anything".
Rory McIlroy briefly caught him for the lead until the birdies stopped falling.
Leishman finished tied-fourth in the US PGA Tour's year-opening Tournament of Champions at Kapalua resort in Hawaii today, never threatening to win but still managing his game well.
Fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis was nine down in solo seventh after a 71, while Webb Simpson totaled 65 and was another stroke behind in a tie for eighth with sixth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who finished at 69, and Patton Kizzire, who wound up at 68.
"When you're trying to play for a trophy, it's not easy to defend leads", four-time PGA Tour victor Leishman said of Woodland.
But he added: "I don't think anyone could have lived with Xander today". The 34-year-old American was more aggressive and fired his second straight six-under 67 to grab a three-shot halfway lead.
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"I've had that (relaxed) mindset a couple times that I've been here, not prepared, excited to be here", Woodland said. "I'll use all those experiences to my advantage and take what I can from them", he said. "So I knew what (Schauffele) was doing and the competitor in me knew I needed to do one better and unfortunately I didn't get it done".
The Northern Irishman hit two birdies and a bogey, ending on 15-under overall alongside Dustin Johnson and Marc Leishman.
"I obviously could have shot a better score, but I did what I wanted to do, gave myself plenty of chances, just couldn't get the ball to drop".
Gary Woodland reacts to making birdie on the 11th green during the final round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.
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