The PGA Championship concluded yesterday in the darkness at Vahalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. And once again, triumphant was Rory McIlroy-the best player on the planet.
This one was different, though.
In Rory’s 3 previous major championship wins, the last round was basically a coronation, yesterday was a fight.
All summer long, Rickie Fowler-armed with a new golf swing-has been putting himself in position to win his first major. He finished 5th at The Masters and 2nd at both the U.S. Open and Open Championships.
On Sunday, as Rory faltered on the front nine, he put himself on top of the leaderboard.
And as the front nine rolled into the back, he was joined there by a familiar Major championship face, Phil Mickelson. Phil’s season up to this point has been one that was lost-not even a top 10 finish.
All that changed yesterday.
Golf is unique among all pro sports in that for some reason, it allows all its great champions to have one, last, great afternoon in the sun reminding us of their greatness. Ben Hogan had his Saturday in ’67 at The Masters. Lee Trevino had his PGA in 1984. Nicklaus had his brilliant performance in the 1998 Masters. Who can forget Tom Watson at Turnbury just a few years ago? And just this summer, on the LPGA side, the great Julie Inkster rolled back the clock on Saturday at the U.S. Open and fired the lowest round of the tournament.
I’m hope Phil is not “done” in the majors, but yesterday had that “last stand” feel to it.
Henrik Stenson was in the mix as well, but yesterday was about the best player in the world having to show what he was made of in coming from behind to hold off one of the hottest golfers of the year and one of the greatest of all time.
The back nine was like a title fight with all the big shots, saving putts, and birdies being thrown around like jabs, body blows and upper cuts.
In the end, Phil ran out of gas. Rickie had a couple of loose swings. And Rory McIlroy showed his combination of firepower and moxie that could very well net him the 15-20 major championships opined by Jack Nicklaus this week.
All of this great golf and drama…and no Tiger Woods?
Who’d have thought we could have a major championship that was this great and he wasn’t involved. Tiger bowed out with an injury-plagued total of +6 through the first two rounds.
He wasn’t missed.
And that may be the best news golf has had in quite some time.
Three cheers for the great Phil Mickelson. A big “atta-boy” to Rickie Fowler who now appears to be on the verge of realizing the potential he’s been displaying since a brilliant amateur career. And all hail the conquering hero, McIroy.
He earned this one. And it was great to watch.
Now we turn our attention to next year’s Master’s where two questions will be at the forefront: 1. Will Rory McIlroy win the “Career Slam?” and 2. Tiger who?