Rory McIlroy won his fourth major, the PGA Championship, in a dynamic fashion. If you missed it, you missed one of the all-time great Sundays in championship golf.
McIlroy started the day with a one-stroke lead, but for the first time in a long time, he looked shaky. He was 1-over-par after his first nine holes, one of only two guys at the top of the leaderboard over par for the day.
He was three shots back standing in the tee box at the par-5 10th hole. No one, to that point, had reached the green in two shots. That’s when he did something that only he can do.
He ripped his drive. Then, in the fairway, 283 yards from the green, he hit a three wood to seven feet. He converted the eagle putt to cut his deficit to one stroke.
That sparked the rest of his round. From there, he just took over. His driver was smashed down the middle, and his approach shots were right at the flag.
Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and Henrik Stenson all shared the lead with McIlroy at one point, but they slowly faded from sight. McIlroy got better as the round went on, proving that we are in a new era of golf.
McIlroy has now won three straight tournaments, two of which were major championships. This is stunning because the knock on McIlroy as recently as early July was that he’s more Phil Mickelson than Tiger Woods. That is, McIlroy is streaky. Sometimes he plays well, and he’s a force. Other times he’s a mess. This idea was put forth by none other than Woods himself.
At the British Open Woods said: “Well, as you can see, the way he plays is pretty aggressively. When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It’s one or the other. If you look at his results, he’s kind of that way. Very similar to what Phil does. He has his hot weeks, and he has his weeks where he’s off. And that’s just the nature of how he plays the game — it’s no right way or wrong way.”
This sounds like a fairly innocuous statement from Woods, and perhaps it is. Or maybe, Woods was throwing shade, as the kids say. Mickelson is a great player, but he’s not in Woods’ league. By comparing McIlroy to Mickelson, Woods was providing a subtle diss. He was saying, ‘You could be great, but you’re not as consistently great as I am.’
McIlroy plays the part of a humble champion, but his family and friends are now describing him as “ruthless.” He wants to mow down the competition, and he wants to be a legend in the game.
Woods’ comments, while small, may have contributed to this run from McIlroy. He may be trying to prove Woods, and anyone who agrees with Woods, wrong. McIlroy is not a streaky player in the way of Mickelson; he’s a massive talent who can win week after week.
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