As one of the thirty-two golfers heading into the year’s final major, the PGA Championship, Rory McIroy set himself apart from a handful of them and put himself into some unique company: He’s now a Multiple Major Champion.
Last Year’s US Open Champion Wins the PGA Championship
Rory McIlroy has taken over Number One Player in the World from Luke Donald—finally someone has—with this win; I just needed to get that out of the way because having him as the quote Best Player in Golf has been embarrassing. Donald not only has never won a Major, he almost missed the cut for the second time this year at a Major Championship—and he didn’t make it into the weekend at the PGA Championship by much: Luke Donald, the Number One Player in the World, made the cut by one stroke. Wow.
Sure, in full disclosure, Donald matched his Masters finish T32, finished at the Open Championship T5, missed the weekend at the US Open as Rory did, and both of his finishes at the two Majors at which they both made the cut were better than Rory’s T40 at Augusta and T60 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes—but McIlroy was defending his victory at the US Open; furthermore, McIlroy has won two majors in two years. If anyone needs me to keep going on this rant for me to prove my point, you need your head examined.
Rory was in a group tied for second at (-5) behind Carl Pettersson by a stroke after Day One, and just like everybody else that shot 67 that day—Gary Woodland, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, etc—he got blown away with the wind on Day Two, placing himself off everyone’s radar heading into the weekend.
Then, Saturday happened, and on Hole 3 Rory McIlroy found his ball stuck in a dead tree—literally. How fun…?
After that little fiasco, however, Rory McIlroy played out of his mind, for he birdied 5-of-the-first-8 holes he had played. Amazing.
But Kiawah Island granted us the privilege of having to wait for Round Three to finish (and more on that later), so Rory had to sit on his stellar start until Sunday’s morn, which he finalized with an even par remaining ten holes as it were, for another 67.
McIlroy didn’t disappoint for the television viewers (we couldn’t have watched the morning play anyway) because when CBS took over for Round Four, the now Number One Player in the World showed us what he teased us with on Saturday—a round of golf in which he plays out of his mind, except this time for the entire duration.
The Irishman had three birdies on the front, three on the back, for a 66, and Rory McIlroy set the mark for the largest margin of victory in the history of the PGA Championship with his eight-stroke victory (which happens to be the same distance he put between himself and the field when he won his first Major, last year’s US Open).
Everyone Pulls a Joost Luiten…
The Dutchman started a bit of a trend on Saturday, unintentionally of course, yet his finishing of his round from the following day during next morning, his by choice, the ones that did it on Sunday, not so much.
He decided to play Hole 18 Saturday morning instead of playing his final hole of his not-going-so-swell Second Round in the near dark. Apparently, Joost Luiten opted to call it a night—probably for a Heineken and a sammich and a good night’s sleep—instead of trying to play Hole 18 in the middle of a (+5) Day Two.
And it worked, for he birdied the bugger—and it carried over into his Third Round, birdying the first two holes he played of his up-coming eighteen holes of golf.
It didn’t work entirely, however, because Luiten double bogeyed Hole 5, as well as bogeying 5-of-the-final-9 holes he played for a 75.
Why so much talk of the Dutchman? Especially one of whom nobody’s heard? Trends. Trends. Trends.
Or, in the words of John Daly, “This golf course is hard, whether the wind blows or not; when the wind blows, it’s near impossible.” Joost Luiten just wanting his day to end on Friday was a common occurrence. Over 20-mph winds caused only one round in the sixties (a 69 by Vijay Singh), so everyone was struggling mightily, in need of a reprieve.
Through studying this player from the Netherlands, it also shows us the inconsistencies on display by most players other than Rory McIlroy. Luiten came out swinging in Round One, to the tune of (-8) after playing his first fourteen holes—a more than impressive six birdies and an eagle on Hole 16 (for he went out the back)—but he faltered, bogeying his last four.
Joost Luiten’s trend of good starts and bad finishes were common every day, yet the biggest example of this came from Ian Poulter on the Final Day of golf from South Carolina; Poulter came out of the clubhouse with his hair on fire: Birdying the first five holes. And Poulter was at (-8) with second place all to himself, but then he bogeyed Holes 13-15 as well as the closing hole to leave David Lynn at (-5) all by his lonesome for second place in the clubhouse.
You may think that I’m making too big a deal out of this, but remember: One player, especially in a game like golf, can serve as a microcosm for the big picture of all the players on tour. You just need to pick the right one, and I think I did.
Oh, what could have been?
That’s what everyone should be saying after Mr. Woods gave us the ultimate setup on Friday into Saturday. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh playing in the Final Group, Saturday at the PGA Championship: This should be a ball.
It wasn’t. Like McIlroy, the pairing didn’t even get through the first nine holes before the weather delay, and then it looked like only Vijay was going to compete for this one, for he was (-2), Tiger was (+3).
But when the Third Round was over, they’d each posted a 74…
Vijay’s weekend only got worse with his Closing Round of 77, resulting in him not even finishing a tournament he could have won under par.
Tiger on the other hand had a rather boring card when you look at it—an even-par 72, from two birdies on the front, two bogeys on the back—yet if you watched it unfold, Tiger’s Final Round was anything but.
Tiger Woods missed at least three birdie putts that I recall and a makeable eagle putt that was so close to falling it was jaw dropping.
He even called himself out after the round was over, saying that he was “too relaxed”, and that normally he’s pretty intense, but on Sunday he wasn’t. Huh?
Then, CBS had a treat for us in the form of an unbelievable stat: Tiger hasn’t had a round under par during a weekend of any Major this year. When they played this on the screen, I honestly had to look it up to make sure they weren’t full of it.
They weren’t, indeed—and it gave me something exciting to do while Rory finished up Hole 18, as the crowd chanted “Rory! Rory!” as McIlroy approached the green.
FedEx Cup Playoffs Chatter
The Top Ten got shuffled a little bit following this final Major Championship, but the biggest movers of import were Steve Stricker placing himself in the Top Ten and Rory McIlroy putting himself in second just 177 points behind Tiger.
The rearranging will make for an enticing playoff race for the top as three-of-the-four Major winners are in the Top Ten and half of the Top Ten have won multiple times this season, so expect a ton of drama in the coming weeks.
Brendan Steele was in the top 125 in points for a grand total of one week after Trevor Immelman had a fine showing at the PGA Championship and put himself back into the playoffs.
No one else moved in or out, but people like Retief Goosen, Y. E. Yang and Gary Woodland inched themselves closer to getting in after this week’s golf. Health Slocum and Chris DiMarco fell as a result. Out of any of these guys mentioned on the outside looking in over the last two paragraphs, the guy with the best shot is Gary Woodland for my money, mostly because he’s a big hitter, something that’ll come in handy, or at least more than the streaky, up-and-down play of the rest of the lot.
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