Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy ran away from the field to win by eight shots at the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. His eight-shot victory breaks the previous PGA Championship record of seven strokes held by Jack Nicklaus at Oak Hill in 1980. English journeyman David Lynn finished second alone. Englishmen Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, along with Sweden’s Carl Pettersson and 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley rounded out the top six. Magnificent McIlroy finished Sunday’s round firing a bogey-free 66 to finish on 13-under par 275. This was the first bogey-free final round in the majors since Phil Mickelson at Augusta in 2010. This is McIlroy’s second major championship (2011 U.S. Open) and his second win of 2012 (Honda Classic). McIlroy now has four-career wins on TOUR. He joins Tiger Woods as the only two players under 40 to have two or more major championships.
What a difference a few months can make! He was a top-five machine in the opening months of 2012, including his win at the Honda Classic, and he looked like the player who ran away with the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. He stumbled at the Masters (T40) but bounced right back to the delight of fantasy owners with P2 at Wells Fargo. Gamers rejoiced and were ready for McIlroy to make another run. McIlroy had other ideas. He fell in love with tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki and golf didn’t seem to be as important. He missed the cut at THE PLAYERS (so much for successes on Pete Dye courses, right?) and then flew across the pond to bomb out at the BMW PGA at Wentworth. His jet-setting continued as he returned to the states to play the Memorial and fired 71 (good)-79 (bad). Three big events, three MC and gamers were worrying what to make of the 23-year old. He teased us again the week before the U.S. Open at FESJC as he was right in the thick of things until an errant tee shot found the drink late on Sunday knocked him down to T7. He’s back! But wait, he’s not! His roller coaster ride continued at the U.S. Open as he fired 150 and missed the cut by two shots. He’s 23 and in love. Who could possibly figure out if McIlroy was practicing golf or tennis? Was he having laugh and not really caring about his current surroundings? He played the Irish Open (T10) after hanging out at Wimbledon but that wasn’t the toughest field he had seen in 2012. After finishing T60 at The Open Championship, I was concerned that he might not be that “automatic” selection we had been used to moving forward because I couldn’t figure out which McIlroy was going to show up each week. His play last week at the WGC-BI forced him back into my top going into this week after he played his final 68 holes last week 11-under par. He kept it together and got better as the week continued. That looked like a committed player and boy, was committed this week.
From a fantasy standpoint, McIlroy will be interesting to watch in the final events of 2012. With only the FedExCup playoffs left, I’ll be interested to see where his concentration level will be. He’s has joined a pretty elite club in winning a major in consecutive years. He’s one of 12 players since 1950 to do that. The first playoff event is at Bethpage Black where McIlroy finished T10 in 2009. Sounds like a good fit. He was T37 at the Deutsche Bank Championship in his only appearance. He’s never played Crooked Stick, the site of this year’s BMW and hasn’t participated in the Tour Championship final at East Lake.
What did we learn this week? Here are some quick thoughts: Rory McIlroy is an elite golfer. He’s halfway to the career Grand Slam. Sandy areas are way cooler than bunkers. When a guy wins who doesn’t use a belly or broomstick putter, the telecast is more enjoyable. Wind players don’t always play well in the wind. Traffic stinks going on and off the island of Kiawah. The bookmakers set the over-under for the winning score at -5.5-under par. That was accurate for the mere mortals but not for McIlroy. McIlroy finished the week with two of the best three rounds recorded (66 Sunday; 67 Thursday and Saturday). S.Y. Noh fired the best round of the week on Sunday with 65. Paspalum greens are really smooth. Paspalum rough is very sticky. Gorgeous track!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Twenty-four of 36 players who held the 54-hole lead have NOT gone on to win in 2012 but Rory McIlroy is not included in that list. In his two wins this season, McIlroy held and converted his 54-hole leads. He began the Honda Classic with a two-shot lead over Tiger Woods and Tom Gillis and he led Carl Pettersson this week by three shots.
Rory McIlroy (two wins) joins Tiger Woods (3), Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Zach Johnson (2) as multiple winners on TOUR this year. The American players have dominated on TOUR this year with 28 victory in 36 events. The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Rory McIlroy (Honda and now the PGA), Justin Rose (WGC-CC), Luke Donald (Transitions), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage), Marc Leishman (the Travelers) and South African Ernie Els (The Open).
The U.S.A. and the rest of the world split the four majors in 2012 with each winning two events.
Rory McIlroy now is the No. 1 player in the world for the second time in his career and the second time this season.
Rory McIlroy (twice), Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have won four of the last 11 majors. Not bad for Northern Ireland, who until 2010 had only one major winner in their history.
If you are planning ahead for 2013 one-and-dones, note this stat: In his last four PGA Championships, McIlroy has finished T3 (2009), T3 (2010), T64 with a bent wrist last year and now a win. Very nice.
McIlroy joins Padraig Harrington (2008) and Martin Kaymer (2010) as the only Europeans to win the PGA since Tommy Armour in 1930.
McIlroy breaks up the streak of 16 consecutive different winners of major champions.
Els and McIlroy have now made it two in a row for former champions!
There have only been five first-time winners on TOUR in 2012: Kyle Stanley, John Huh, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Ted Potter, Jr.
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,440,000, 600 FedExCup points and the Wanamaker Trophy. He now ranks second to Tiger Woods on the FedExCup points list.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 36 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” have taken the lead with one event left on the back of McIlroy’s second win on TOUR this year. McIlroy becomes the second-youngest PGA Champion in history behind Gene Sarazen. The season series now stands at 17-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy TWICE (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27) and Keegan Bradley (26) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! Vijay Singh, 49, gave it the ol’ college try for 50 holes but couldn’t find the finish line on Sunday.
David Lynn: The English journeyman has two wins in his career and the last one came in 2004. Entering the week he was 57th in the Race to Dubai and ranked 98th in OWGR. His best finish this season was T4. Neat story, but for gamers, he just ate up money this week. His solo second place gets him into the 2013 Masters. Sometimes it doesn’t suck to finish eight shots off the lead.
Keegan Bradley: He tried to join elite company in winning the week before the PGA and going on to lift the Wanamaker trophy the following week. If it wasn’t for McIlroy, he might have had a chance as he finished T3 at four-under. Bradley tried to join Tiger Woods as the only person to defend their championship in the stroke-play era but fell short. As the playoffs get going, Bradley will get his “home” tournament at TPC Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Just like last year, as the weather heated up, so did Bradley. He’s won and finished T3 in his last two starts and is on the Ryder Cup team even though he struggled in the other three majors.
Justin Rose: No Englishman has won the PGA Championship since 1930 and Rose almost didn’t even make the weekend as he shot 79 on the windy Friday. Rose took advantage of his situation and played the weekend 70-66 to finish T3. Like Bradley, Rose collects back-to-back top fives as he was T5 last week at WGC-BI. In the four majors this season, Rose posted T8, T21, MC and T3. That’s the best rate of return from the Sean Foley camp in majors in 2012.
Carl Pettersson: The Swede had a fantastic time in South Carolina in 2012 as he won at Pete Dye’s Harbour Town and was T3 this week. Pettersson gained more respect this week as he finished in the top three for the fourth time in 2012. The big fella proved he could play in big settings and in not the best of weather conditions. Take out his tough two-shot penalty on No. 1 and he could have been solo second. This was his best finish since his T10 at THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP, another Pete Dye course! Pettersson currently sits ninth on the FedExCup points list so he will be a factor throughout the TOUR Championship. Do they play all of those events in South Carolina?
Ian Poulter: He’ll only play 15 or so events a year, but if you were on him for the majors you should have been well rewarded. He began with solo seventh at the Masters, T41 at the U.S. Open, T9 at The Open Championship before finishing T3 this week at the PGA Championship. He was the only player to put any pressure on McIlroy on Sunday as he birdied six of his first seven holes. Nobody keeps up that pace! Poulter usually shines where par is a decent score and this week was no exception. In 12 events on TOUR in 2012, his best four-round score was six-under par at API in March. He won’t help you on courses where you will need tons of birdies to win but he’s better on tight, tough, major courses. Surprisingly, this is only his second top five in 40 majors in his career. He’s currently 49 in the FedExCup Standings so he still has a bit of work to do to reach the TOUR Championship.
Blake Adams: The boys on CBS were laughing that S.Y. Noh had played 25 events in 2012 and remarked that’s why he’s so skinny. Adams just finished his 26th event! Take that McCord! Adams missed the cut in his last two TOUR stops before playing this week so it would make perfect sense that he would hit a top 10 (T7) this week! It’s Adams’ best finish on TOUR since his T3 at Reno-Tahoe in 2011. Adams will also have to cash a few more checks if he’s planning on playing deep into the playoffs. He currently sits 76th in the FedExCup standings. Remember, 125 in round one, 90 in round two and the 70 best in round three. The top 30 then advance to the TOUR Championship.
Jamie Donaldson: The Welshman won the Irish Open on July 1 and that sprang him into this year’s PGA Championship and he took full advantage of his situation as he finished T7. His only other top 10 of 2012 was T3 at Trophee Hassan II in late March. After his victory on July 1, he proceeded to MC the following week in Paris. He was T60 at The Open Championship and T36 last week in Akron. He began the week 25th in the Race to Dubai and was 62 in the OWGR. Gold star if you had him this week!
Peter Hanson: The second Swede in the top 10 this week, Hanson had an excellent season in the majors. He was the 54-hole leader at Augusta before finishing T3. I touted him at the Transitions and the U.S. Open. He finished T55 and MC. When I don’t tout him, he does just fine. He was T15 at THE PLAYERS, T23 at The Open Championship and T7 this week. He’s not a TOUR member so we’ll see him again in the big European events throughout the rest of the season. Oh, and at the Ryder Cup.
Steve Stricker: Going back to the U.S. Open six events ago, Stricker has not finished worse than T23 and has three top 10’s in that stretch. After his hot finish last week at WGC-BI for T2, I thought Stricker would make some noise this week and he did with T7. The elusive major championship eluded him again this year but when healthy, Stricker is showing zero signs of slowing down. He’s currently 10th on the FedExCup money list so he will factor into your plans during the FedExCup playoffs.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
World Ranking in ( ) before the tournament started
Luke Donald (1): After three rounds of 74-76-74, Donald was just trying to avoid the foot of the table. After his 66 on Sunday, he jumped 32 places to finish T32. For fantasy players, that’s a dud. Looking forward you can be assured that Donald will NOT usually mail it in if he’s not in the top 20 or so heading into Sunday and I like that. He bookends his major season with T32’s at the Masters and the PGA, MC (U.S. Open) and a career-best T5 at The Open Championship. Donald loses his No. 1 ranking in the world this week to McIlroy. He’s ranked 16th on the FedExCup points race so once again he’ll be participating in all four FedExCup playoff events.
Tiger Woods (2): Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: At the top or right near the top after 36 holes, Woods again didn’t live up to his own legendary status on the weekend for the third major in a row. Thursday and Friday are on lockdown but Woods did not break par on the weekend in any of the four majors this season. He played poorly yet finished T11. He’s fantasy gold. You can’t expect guys to “automatically win” majors but even when he’s bad, he’s not THAT bad. He finished T40, T21, T3 and T11 in the four majors this year. I was impressed by the way he played this week on a course which he hasn’t seen too often. I guess that’s what the great ones do. Nobody was beating McIlroy this week anyway. Oh, and he leads the FedExCup points race. Oh and he’s won at every stop on the playoff circuit except Crooked Stick because he hasn’t played there. There’s plenty of fun with Woods still left to be had in 2012.
Lee Westwood (4): His majors successes are just as well documented as his failure to win one but there’s no doubt that Westwood will be disappointed with the final two majors of 2012. In the Englishman’s home country he disappointed by finishing T45 on a course where most thought his superb driving and iron play would be a huge advantage. Westwood would have thought he would have the same advantage this week at Kiawah Island but after an 81-73 finish last week at WGC-BI, he couldn’t correct it and MC with 75-77. After finishing T10 at the U.S. Open, he’s finished T40, T45, 70th and MC. As the English, and fantasy owners, say, “that’s rubbish.” I’ll be in no hurry to back him in the FedExCup playoffs.
Webb Simpson (5): No surprise that he MC this week after a five-week layoff where he became a father for the second time. He said via Twitter he was happy to get the rust off, excited to defend at Greensboro this week and is happy to see Bermuda greens. I’ll start with him at the top of my list come Tuesday. Absolutely no worries at all moving forward.
Bubba Watson (6): Another major in 2012, another great finish for Watson. He wrapped up with 68 to finish T11. He adds that to his win at Augusta, MC at the U.S. Open and his T23 at The Open Championship. I like him on any course where working the golf ball is on the top of the list of priorities. His worst finish in 13 made cuts in 2012 is T23. He’s only missed two cuts as well. Auto. Matic.
Adam Scott (7): Last week it didn’t come together for Scott in his first time out since The Open Championship and I thought that would help him at Kiawah Island this week. He played solid golf but just couldn’t get up-and-down and hole some key putts to stay in contention. His ball-striking is excellent though and that’s why he finished T11 for the week. Remember this for 2013: T8 at Augusta. T15 at U.S. Open. Solo second at The Open. T11 at the PGA.
Jason Dufner (8): His talent and composure saw him move up the leaderboard on the weekend after a rocky 74-76 start. He regrouped for 69-71 on the weekend to finish T27. Dufner, who lost in this event in 2011 to Keegan Bradley in a playoff, has been excellent on TOUR this year. The next logical step for Dufner will be to contend in the majors year in and year out. He tends to fight the putter and as McIlroy showed today, that club has to be on point to contend and win these things.
Matt Kuchar (9): Wow. After winning at THE PLAYERS and making 20-something cuts in a row, Kuchar fell victim to the elements and his game this week to MC. He fired 72-82. Now that he’s gotten that out of his system he’ll be fresh and ready to go once the FedExCup playoffs start. He’s been too solid for too long to let one windy round turn you off.
Honorable Mention: Phil Mickelson (19): Lefty had his best finish in the states, T36, since his T7 in late May at the HPBNC. In the 15 rounds he’s played since that T7, he’s fired in the 60’s exactly one time. Miceklson’s newer putter had the same old problems as four footers were a challenge yet 40 footers were going in! He looked in great shape but T36 is nowhere near what fantasy owners expect when they put him in their lineups. The good news is he’s playing better. The bad news is he has nowhere to go but up. The fields aren’t getting any easier in the FedExCup playoffs but the good news is he’s currently 14th so he’s qualified, essentially, for all four events.
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the Wyndham Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.