Let me get this out of the way right now; I had absolutely no dog in the fight in last night’s PGA Championship. I enjoy good, compelling golf regardless of who is playing and that’s exactly what we got last night.
To recap for just a second, Rory McIlroy had surrendered his lead heading to the back nine. He soon found himself in amazing quartet of guys vying for the Wanamaker Trophy. Besides McIlroy, there was Rickie Fowler again who became the only golfer to finish in the top five in all four majors this year. There was Henrik Stenson who was the FedEx Points champ last year. He had a share of the lead on the back nine.
The final member of the foursome charging towards victory with eagles, birdies and amazing par saves was Phil Mickelson. Lefty will always be known as the ‘other guy’ during the great run of dominance by Tiger Woods but there are few players I’ve come to respect and enjoy watching more than Mickelson.
It wasn’t to be for Lefty though as he finished one back of McIlroy and nearly tied him with a pitch that missed by mere inches for eagle. It was Mickelson’s ninth runner-up finish in a major tournament.
For McIlroy, this was his fourth major title and he joins Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win four majors at 25 years old or younger. Only the Masters has eluded his grasp to this point and common sense tells us he will be a very heavy favorite when the attention turns to Augusta in April.
This major title was easily his most difficult because his prior three major victories were pretty much without tension. This one was just the opposite and the pressure didn’t end until he dropped a 10″ putt to close out Mickelson. I think this is bad news for the rest of the players on the tour. McIlroy has now proven he can withstand the pressure of a major and pull through. That doesn’t bode well for other stars trying to break through in major tournaments.
Last night’s finish wasn’t without a bit of controversy however and as former golf coach of ten years, I can tell you it shouldn’t have happened the way it did.
Because of a two-hour rain delay, the exciting finish was happening as the darkness closed in. With Mickelson and Fowler walking down the 18th fairway, the decision was made to allow McIlroy and his partner to hit their drives. Mickelson was being told this as McIlroy’s ball went flying over his head. THat wasn’t the problem and this often happens in tournaments from junior golf through the professional ranks.
Where the controversy entered was when Mickelson and Fowler were told on the green before putting that McIlroy would be hitting his approach shot. This is much more uncommon than hitting the drive was. Does it happen? Absolutely this does, especially when you’re playing with a group of buddies at the local muni and you let the group behind hit up so you can all finish together.
This doesn’t and shouldn’t happen in a major tournament. Would the outcome have changed? I doubt it, but we don’t know and that’s the key. How do we know things wouldn’t have played out differently had the tournament finished as it should have? You don’t change the rules you’ve played by for 71 holes for the final one.
Was it a significant thing? It’s debatable, but either way, Rory McIlroy has cemented his place as the best golfer in the world right now and that isn’t even close to being debatable.