For the third time in his last three events on TOUR, Rory McIlroy was holding the trophy on the final green on Sunday afternoon as the Northern Irishman won the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. McIlroy posted a closing round three-under-par 68 to post 16-under 268 to win his second Wanamaker trophy in the last three years. Sergio Garcia had been his victim at The Open and WGC-BI but this week it was Phil Mickelson who claimed second place one shot back. Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson rounded out the podium one shot further back on 14-under-270.
Sunday had everything gamers wanted with a loaded leaderboard that more like the start of the Kentucky Derby than the end of a major. At one point 20 golfers were within 4 shots of the lead and birdies were flying in from everywhere. Mickelson got hot. McIlroy did not. Fowler was pushing on to his first. Stenson was trying to make one more birdie. When the dust settled and all the bullets fired, it again was the superior talent from Nothern Ireland lifting another major championship trophy this season.
Gamers and golf fans around the world will remember the “Summer of McIlroy” as he won The Open, WGC-BI and the PGA in the span of four weeks. (He did not play the RBC Canadian Open between The Open and WGC-BI). These three events boast the deepest fields in golf and the grind of playing all of them in that time frame doesn’t make it any easier to sweep! McIlroy joins Tiger Woods as the only players to win these three tournaments in succession in the same season. McIlroy also joins Woods, Mickelson and Padraig Harrington as the only people to win consecutive majors in the 2000s. If that’s not enough, he’s now won four of the last 15 majors and joins Tom Morris, Jr., Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the youngest players to win four majors.
Got all of that?
None of this should be news to any regular readers of the column as I’ve covered just about every McIlroy angle in the last few weeks. He’s been pegged for greatness since he was a wee lad and he’s delivering on his potential. The most interesting part of Sunday for me was how he reacted when losing his lead on Sunday. He responded with a 281-yard 3-wood to five feet for eagle on No. 10 and rammed home two more birdies on his way in to shooting four-under on his final nine holes. Let’s not forget he missed a couple of 8-10-footers for birdie in that stretch as well. What I take away from this performance is he let PREMIUM PLAYERS (Mickelson, Fowler, Stenson) back into the tournament and still found a way to kill them ALL off at dusk. McIlroy has now converted three of four 54-hole leads in majors, including three in a row after his collapse on the back nine on Sunday at the 2011 Masters. Remember, he’s just missing the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
The most interesting “thing” with McIlroy this week was having gamers trying to talk themselves out of not entering him into their lineups. I argued that he’s cut from a different cloth and that normal rules don’t apply to him. I saw nothing this week that would change my mind in the future or at The Barclays in two weeks. I completely understand the odds of him winning four in a row aren’t great but those gamers who suggested that last week look a bit silly tonight. This isn’t an “I told you so”; far from it. The point is McIlroy, as the career marks above have noted, is on a different level that gamers will have to adjust their strategies to fit him in. Remember, he never played this course before and shot 16-under to win under stressful (tee time delays, darkness) conditions. Mickelson didn’t win his first major until he was 34. McIlroy has NINE MORE YEARS before he’s 34.
The last player to win more than three events in a row on TOUR was Tiger Woods in late 2007 and early 2008 when he racked up five straight (WGC-BI, PGA, Torrey, WGC-CC and API) events that he entered. This is the second time that McIlroy has won two events in a row (2012 DBC & BMW) and the first time he’s won three in a row. He’s done all of this after calling off his engagement in late May. Remember, he won the European PGA at Wentworth that weekend. Fade him at your own risk. I’m not. Cynics will point out that he won his first two majors by eight shots and his last two by a total of three. Nice try but I’m not buying that!
McIlroy is now the newest player to win in consecutive weeks ending with a major. Mickelson did it last year on the European Tour. Woods did it in 2007 on the PGA TOUR.
He secures the 11th trophy for the rest of the world at the PGA. Americans have won 85 of the 96 editions of the championship.
Now, five of the last seven winners have been foreign born. Irishman Padraig Harrington won in 2008. Korean Y.E. Yang won in 2009. German Martin Kaymer claimed his first major in 2010 and McIlroy has won two of the last three.
Make it eight of the last 15 champions have won in a playoff or by one shot.
All four major champions of 2014 had previously won a major.
Since 2000, eight of the last 15 PGA winners have been first-time major champions. #notthisweek
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,800,000, 600 FedExCup points and the Wanamaker trophy.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 40 events in 2013-14 but none in the last four weeks. 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.
Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives. Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won four of the last six majors dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and 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 40 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, 20 of 40 leaders have gone on to win as Rory McIlroy held the 54-hole lead this week.
McIlroy joins Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer as the multiple winners on TOUR this season. Walker and McIlroy have three victories each #rydercupfoes.
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. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38) and Geoff Ogilvy, 37, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
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 THRICE (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, 44, won at Greenbrier. Phil Mickelson was runner up and Jim Furyk was T5 this week to hog 33% of the top five for the old folks!