Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy defeated Spain’s Sergio Garcia and American Rickie Fowler to hoist the Claret Jug and become Champion Golfer of 2014 as he won The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake). His final round of one-under-par 71 saw him post 17-under, 271 to defeat Garcia and Fowler by two shots as they finished on 15-under 273. American Jim Furyk continued his excellent play in 2014 by finishing one shot back alone in fourth.
Beginning the day six shots ahead of Fowler, McIlroy began the day with a birdie at No. 1 that put him in the right frame of mind. After back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6, he rolled in back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 to steady the ship. The closest his lead on the back nine was two shots but he had all of the confidence, experience and excellence to hold off his competitors and eventually hold up the Claret Jug.
McIlroy’s dominance this week started with the driver and ended with the putter and touched every club in between. He carved up the par-five holes as his driver found the middle of most of those fairways. He carved up Royal Liverpool because his putter not only holed birdie putts but saved plenty of pars from five to 10 feet. Some will argue that he had the favorable side of the draw but his 66-66 was hardly handed to him. On Saturday when the field essentially went out in the same conditions, he found eagle-bogey-eagle to finish and post 68 to INCREASE his lead. On Sunday he played smartly and assuredly, like a two-time, major champion should in that situation. The cool part about McIlroy is that he’s now done all of this in just 25 short years on the planet. I guess it was obvious to his father that this was going to take place as he placed a $400 wager on his son at age 10 that he would win The Open by the time he was 25. Not bad at 500-1 odds! #chaching
In 2013-14 season McIlroy has not MC on TOUR (11-11) and his worst finish was T25. He’s fulfilling the wishes all of his owners in season-long formats as seven of those 11 finishes have been top 10s, including a P2 at Honda and his victory this week. The reason gamers get feisty with him is because they expect more. They expect him not to blow a five-shot lead at Honda. They expect him not to fire in the mid-70s on Fridays. They expect him to win every time he tees it up. If gamers were handed a sheet before the season started that McIlroy would have won a major, finished second and had 11 top 25s in 11 events, NONE OF THEM would have said “no, thanks”. None. Zero. Zilch.
What can’t he do? He’s now held three of the four major championships and he’s led at the 54-hole point of every major. Ian Poulter’s caddy, Terry Mundy, remarked on Twitter that the only major he hasn’t won is the one that suits his game the best, the Masters. I have tickets to Friday’s second round next year at Augusta and can’t wait to be a part of the circus, unless of course he shoots 78 that afternoon!
Moving forward, there is no reason to leave him out at WGC-BI, the PGA or any of the Playoff venues. He’s a player that NEVER seems to be satisfied and loves to collect trophies. Remember in 2012 when he won back-to-back Playoff events? Yeah, me too. Remember when he had the lead on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday? Yeah, me too. He’s toasted Congressional, Kiawah and now Hoylake. He’s just turned 25. He’s done plenty and still has plenty to do.
With his victory, his third major, McIlroy collects $1,440,000, 600 FedExCup points and his first Claret Jug.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 36 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy joins the European crew that now has won two of the three majors. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and now Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 36 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 18 of 35 leaders have gone on to win as McIlroy did what everyone thought he would do with a six-shot lead on a Sunday.
Phil Mickelson tried to join Old Tom Morris as the only player to defend their Open Championship in their 40s. His only round of the week in the 60s was 68 on Sunday to finish in the top 30. His below-average 2014 continues.
McIlroy and countrymen Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke have won five of the last 18 major championships.
He’s now the youngest player to go wire-to-wire to win multiple majors and just the fourth player overall. Ever.
Now, four of the last five major champions have been multiple winners. Only Jason Dufner at Oak Hill last August is the “newbie” in this group.
McIlroy joins Woods (2006) and Roberto de Vincenzo (1967) as the only three players to win at Hoylake in 50 years.
Justin Rose (T23) and Brian Harman (T26) couldn’t join the exclusive club of players to win the week before a major and then win the major the following week. Harman was the best Open rookie finisher.
For the fourth year in a row the winner of The Open Championship played at the Scottish Open the week prior. #preparation
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer remain the multiple winners on TOUR this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera won at Greenbrier. Jim Furyk continues his excellent 2014, minus a victory, as he finished alone in fourth.