Golf has a history of dominance—from Palmer to Nicklaus to Woods—yet lately it hasn’t had the dominating force of old. Sure, there were people that came close, Mickelson went on a run, Padraig Harrington won back-to-back majors, but no one really took the golfing world by the throat any way to which we are accustomed.
Then: Rory McIlroy began playing out of his mind.
Over the course of the last two months of golf, Rory’s worst finish is a T24 at the Barclays. What are the other finishes? Here goes, in order mind you…
McIlroy had a tied-for-fifth place finish to begin the month of August at the Bridgestone Invitational; then he won the PGA Championship (by a measly eight strokes); the kid from Northern Ireland followed winning his second major with that double-digit posting at the Barclays, but that was just the way Rory started the playoffs…
During the last two weeks, Rory McIlroy hasn’t just taken over the FedEx Playoffs by winning the last two outings—and each convincingly—you don’t post back-to-back (-20) and have a hard time hoisting the trophy—he’s taken over the world of golf as we know it, planting his flag without argument from any player or pundit. (At least one would hope.)
It hasn’t been a year of dominance, however, for the middle months of the calendar year, say, May and June, Mr. McIlroy had a bit of dry spell, full of bumpy outings at best, including three missed cuts, even one at the Players Championship and the US Open. Yet if one glances at the FedEx Cup standings, two things really jump out at you: A.) Rory’s only played in fifteen PGA events, and only Lee Westwood has played in less, yet he’s eighth in the rankings and has yet to win; and, B.) McIlroy has four wins on tour, the most of anyone, and among the winners of majors this year, he’s the only repeat victor.
But all the money’s flowing in one direction heading into the Tour Championship—and why not? Who else would one put faith in coming into the close of the playoffs in Atlanta? You’d have to beat Rory McIlroy outright to take this thing, and there are few people in the remaining thirty golfers that could do just that.
Phil Mickelson took Rory on nearly heads-up coming down the stretch on Sunday last; Lefty couldn’t hang. Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson took their shots at the top, but they couldn’t do better than be within striking distance. Who’s left?
A moment that cemented McIlroy at the top was on the back nine during the final day of play at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick: Rory was in a four-way-tie for the lead, which was (-17) at that time, but then McIlroy birdied Holes 9&10, and it looked like he would run away and hide in the front all by himself. His partner Lee Westwood had other plans.
Westwood joined McIlroy at (-19) on Hole 13—yet that only lasted a hole, for Rory saved himself from bogey after hitting into the rough on Hole 14; Westwood…not so much: Bogey.
The trial by fire that can be golf, playing consistent when everyone is charging, playing good golf with a target on your back, playing golf from behind and posting numbers daring the leaders to beat you, is fascinating television, but when Rory McIlroy takes a lead, the drama is just about over, for we all seem to know what’ll happen. That’s what makes him the best golfer on the planet. And that’s what’ll make him so difficult to dethrone.
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