For the third time in his last three events on TOUR, Rory McIlroy was holding the trophy on the final green on Sunday afternoon as the Northern Irishman won the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. McIlroy posted a closing round three-under-par 68 to post 16-under 268 to win his second Wanamaker trophy in the last three years. Sergio Garcia had been his victim at The Open and WGC-BI but this week it was Phil Mickelson who claimed second place one shot back. Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson rounded out the podium one shot further back on 14-under-270.
Sunday had everything gamers wanted with a loaded leaderboard that more like the start of the Kentucky Derby than the end of a major. At one point 20 golfers were within 4 shots of the lead and birdies were flying in from everywhere. Mickelson got hot. McIlroy did not. Fowler was pushing on to his first. Stenson was trying to make one more birdie. When the dust settled and all the bullets fired, it again was the superior talent from Nothern Ireland lifting another major championship trophy this season.
Gamers and golf fans around the world will remember the “Summer of McIlroy” as he won The Open, WGC-BI and the PGA in the span of four weeks. (He did not play the RBC Canadian Open between The Open and WGC-BI). These three events boast the deepest fields in golf and the grind of playing all of them in that time frame doesn’t make it any easier to sweep! McIlroy joins Tiger Woods as the only players to win these three tournaments in succession in the same season. McIlroy also joins Woods, Mickelson and Padraig Harrington as the only people to win consecutive majors in the 2000s. If that’s not enough, he’s now won four of the last 15 majors and joins Tom Morris, Jr., Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the youngest players to win four majors.
Got all of that?
None of this should be news to any regular readers of the column as I’ve covered just about every McIlroy angle in the last few weeks. He’s been pegged for greatness since he was a wee lad and he’s delivering on his potential. The most interesting part of Sunday for me was how he reacted when losing his lead on Sunday. He responded with a 281-yard 3-wood to five feet for eagle on No. 10 and rammed home two more birdies on his way in to shooting four-under on his final nine holes. Let’s not forget he missed a couple of 8-10-footers for birdie in that stretch as well. What I take away from this performance is he let PREMIUM PLAYERS (Mickelson, Fowler, Stenson) back into the tournament and still found a way to kill them ALL off at dusk. McIlroy has now converted three of four 54-hole leads in majors, including three in a row after his collapse on the back nine on Sunday at the 2011 Masters. Remember, he’s just missing the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
The most interesting “thing” with McIlroy this week was having gamers trying to talk themselves out of not entering him into their lineups. I argued that he’s cut from a different cloth and that normal rules don’t apply to him. I saw nothing this week that would change my mind in the future or at The Barclays in two weeks. I completely understand the odds of him winning four in a row aren’t great but those gamers who suggested that last week look a bit silly tonight. This isn’t an “I told you so”; far from it. The point is McIlroy, as the career marks above have noted, is on a different level that gamers will have to adjust their strategies to fit him in. Remember, he never played this course before and shot 16-under to win under stressful (tee time delays, darkness) conditions. Mickelson didn’t win his first major until he was 34. McIlroy has NINE MORE YEARS before he’s 34.
The last player to win more than three events in a row on TOUR was Tiger Woods in late 2007 and early 2008 when he racked up five straight (WGC-BI, PGA, Torrey, WGC-CC and API) events that he entered. This is the second time that McIlroy has won two events in a row (2012 DBC & BMW) and the first time he’s won three in a row. He’s done all of this after calling off his engagement in late May. Remember, he won the European PGA at Wentworth that weekend. Fade him at your own risk. I’m not. Cynics will point out that he won his first two majors by eight shots and his last two by a total of three. Nice try but I’m not buying that!
McIlroy is now the newest player to win in consecutive weeks ending with a major. Mickelson did it last year on the European Tour. Woods did it in 2007 on the PGA TOUR.
He secures the 11th trophy for the rest of the world at the PGA. Americans have won 85 of the 96 editions of the championship.
Now, five of the last seven winners have been foreign born. Irishman Padraig Harrington won in 2008. Korean Y.E. Yang won in 2009. German Martin Kaymer claimed his first major in 2010 and McIlroy has won two of the last three.
Make it eight of the last 15 champions have won in a playoff or by one shot.
All four major champions of 2014 had previously won a major.
Since 2000, eight of the last 15 PGA winners have been first-time major champions. #notthisweek
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,800,000, 600 FedExCup points and the Wanamaker trophy.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 40 events in 2013-14 but none in the last four weeks. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives. Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won four of the last six majors dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 40 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 20 of 40 leaders have gone on to win as Rory McIlroy held the 54-hole lead this week.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38) and Geoff Ogilvy, 37, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy THRICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera, 44, won at Greenbrier. Phil Mickelson was runner up and Jim Furyk was T5 this week to hog 33% of the top five for the old folks!
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Phil Mickelson: He did everything this week but win the golf tournament so that’s not bad from a guy who remarked last week that he had no idea when he would play well again! I believed that 62 last Sunday would springboard him to a hot finish this summer to make the Ryder Cup team and he did just that this week as he finished runner up to McIlroy. Pretty good time to pick up the first top 10 of the season! Mickelson was in the lead after his birdie on No. 11 but a bogey after almost holing out a chip on No. 16 killed his chances. It’s not a win but he’ll pocket solo second money which will probably be over $1 million so that helps weekly and salary cap gamers. His finish will also shoot him up the FedExCup points race as well (started at 84) and season-long gamers will be smiling!
Rickie Fowler: He joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players in HISTORY to finish in the top five in all four majors in a single season. He was the most aggregate under par for all four events as well and that included four more rounds in the 60s this week to finish T3. I loved in his interview afterwards that he remarked that this was the first one that “hurt”. That tells me he’s not satisfied with this run and that this week will leave a bad taste in his mouth. Remember, he was one of the leaders as well before his final bogey on No. 14 knocked him back. His putt that did a 180 on the final hole for birdie made gamers sick but ALL OF US would have taken T3 before the week started.
Henrik Stenson: He now has four top-six finishes in his last five PGAs. I should stop typing right now. Unlike McIlroy, he has the pressure of an entire country as he continues his quest to become the first MALE major champion from Sweden. Like Fowler, his bogey on No. 14 took him out of the share of the lead and he couldn’t catch McIlroy. The Swede only made three bogeys on the weekend and led the field in strokes gained-putting, his Achilles heel, but still couldn’t break through. He’s an AUTOMATIC selection in the PGA.
Jim Furyk: In his last five majors he’s posted second, T14, T12, fourth and this week’s T5. Not bad for 40-something. Sadly, with only one Yahoo! start, he didn’t crack my lineup this week so I gambled and lost. Sigh. He couldn’t get out of his way on the easiest day of the tournament, Saturday, as he fired 72 which felt more like 82. He rallied to close with bogey-free 66 on Sunday and only made five bogeys on the week. His last four starts on TOUR have been fourth, second, T15 and T5. That’s pretty awesome considering that counts two majors and a WGC event!
Ryan Palmer: After a frigid summer the Texan busted out with 65 on Thursday and never looked back. His birdie on the 72nd hole saw him clinch a share of fifth with easily his best finish in a major (10th at 2011 Masters). This was his second top 10 in 19 major starts and his best finish on TOUR since T5 at his home course, Colonial, in late May. That’s four T5 or better in 19 starts this year and he’s pushing for a top 30 place in the FEC standings and a trip to Atlanta.
Jimmy Walker: Butch Harmon has gotten plenty of love for sorting out Phil Mickelson and changing Rickie Fowler’s swing but folks forget that Jimmy Walker is also in that stable. With three wins this year (after 0 in his previous 180-something tries) plus top 10s at the Masters, PLAYERS, U.S. Open and PGA, I’d say Harmon has a pupil who is listening and learning. In four majors and three WGC, his worst finish this year is T26. This was his ninth top 10 of the season, good for second place alone on TOUR. Matt Kuchar has 10. #perspective
Ernie Els: Similar to Phil Mickelson, The Big Easy was having a very pedestrian 2014 before this week. Paired with Walker on Sunday both fired 65 on Sunday to hit the top 10 as they both moved up 16 spots. Els had a chance to get even lower but left a handful of putts on the edge or short in the guts. In 15 events since his solo fourth at WGC-Match Play, Els had missed six cuts and posted only two top 25s. His results in Europe were worse. But he showed signs of life closing with 66 at Royal Montreal followed by 68 last Sunday at WGC-BI. I’m not surprised that he was in the top 10 in a dart throwing contest the way he strikes it!
Victor Dubuisson: This is a recording: For 24, he’s completely legit. This was his fourth major. This was his second top 10. It was also his second top 10 in a row as he bested his T9 at Hoylake. He also played all four rounds under par. The fear should be LONG GONE by now, gamers.
Hunter Mahan: Next to Mickelson, this was the most pleasant surprise for year-long gamers who have been holding onto Mahan, waiting for him to break out. It also helps chops like me who need some quality players to finish this season in OAD leagues! His T7 was a product of a one-bogey, 65-67 weekend that gives gamers the best evidence yet that he could be back to his productive, consistent ways. He was T1 in GIR and only made five bogeys for the week. Nothing wrong with a shitload of pars! He showed signs of thawing last week with 65 and 68 in a T15 at Akron and this week he busted out. Count me back on board!
Steve Stricker: He shot a million last week and then admitted he was suffering from a hip issue. KRYPTONITE. I guess not as he fired all four rounds in the 60s to finish T7. He didn’t use any smoke and mirrors either as he was T14 GIR and second in strokes gained putting. I’m not sure if being announced as a Ryder Cup Assistant Captain buoyed him or he saw all his American buddies dropping like flies with injury. Whatever. He’s a fantasy disaster as he played his best golf of the year AFTER ANNOUNCING A HIP INJURY!
Mikko Ilonen: With a victory at the Irish Open in late June the Finn appeared on my radar. His T16 at the Scottish Open made me take a very hard look heading into The Open but his 70-78 MC scared me off. His T66 (of 74 players) at WGC-BI was downright frightening especially entering another “foreign” course was on the menu this week. Golf, bloody hell. He finished in the top five in both SGP and PPGIR and only made one bogey and one double on the weekend. He now has two top 10s in 11 career starts in majors. Noted.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Rory McIlroy: See above.
Sergio Garcia: Well, make T3 or better in five of his last eight starts on TOUR as his T36 didn’t wow. His 66 on Sunday helped Group C Yahoo! players like me but his bogeys in three of his last four holes on Sunday did not.
Adam Scott: I was very interested to see how the former world No. 1 would react to being dethroned by McIlroy. His 66 on moving day Saturday saw him end up right outside the top 10 heading into Sunday. His 69 saw him hit the top 15 in a major for the 12th time in 13 majors. He finished T15 even though he was second-to-LAST in driving accuracy. Read that again. Wow.
Justin Rose: He rewarded gamers in Yahoo! B who fired him up for the weekend as he carded 67-67 to erase his 70-72 in the first two rounds. His T24 was solid but not spectacular.
Jim Furyk: See above.
Rickie Fowler: See above.
Marc Leishman: After T5 at Hoylake and solo third at Firestone last week the Aussie finally ran out of gas this week to rack up T47. It happens. He made five birdies coming home on Sunday and just shot 34 because of a double and another bogey. Sunday was his only round in the 60s of the week. He’ll be back.
Graeme McDowell: He also put his only round of the week in the 60s with his Sunday 69. After posting a win and three straight T9s he shared T47 with Leishman. McDowell had a double in round two and a quad in round three that deflated his otherwise solid play. He was second in fairways, 11th in SGP and only made seven bogeys.
Keegan Bradley: The biggest disappointment of the week for gamers as he met all the criteria entering the week. His form was excellent. His history in this major was excellent. His momentum for making the Ryder Cup team was sky high. He made three birdies in 2 rounds to MC.
Matt Kuchar: WD before his tee time on Thursday. Please check Rotoworld.com’s golf injury page to stay updated.
Zach Johnson: His closing round of 77 caused him to leave the course without speaking to reporters about his Ryder Cup chances. If you would have told me that he and Brendon Todd would be third-to-last and second-to-last before the week started, I would have laughed. That’s what happened. Fantasy golf is hard.
Henrik Stenson: See above.
Ryan Moore: My OAD this week rallied on Friday and Saturday to get back into the top 25 heading into Sunday. His 74 on Sunday sent him spiraling the wrong direction down the leaderboard and he lost valuable Ryder Cup points, which are double in majors, as he came home in 38. I’ve made this argument plenty of times in the past that Moore has been disappointing in the majors. After his T12 at The Open and T8 last week against a big field at Firestone I was convinced he would keep it going. T41 is not keeping it going.
Phil Mickelson: See above.
Hideki Matsuyama: His 68 on Sunday moved him up 20 spots sadly only to T36 unlike his big jump last week. All four finishes this year in the majors were T35 or worse. He’s 22. I’m over it.
Brandt Snedeker: Another feather in gamer’s caps this week, another Butch Harmon pupil is starting to put it back together again. His opening 73 elicited groans but his 68-66-67 saw him finish T13. He closed birdie-birdie-birdie and finished in the top 25 for the sixth time in seven events. He has ONE round over par in his last 12. He’ll be one of my favorites next week in Greensboro.
Jason Day: He added vertigo to his list of ailments last week as he WD at Firestone. He added a new grip on Sunday because his thumb is still wonky. He began the day T4 but fell to T15.
Jason Dufner: His neck problem finally knocked him out. Not good.
Tiger Woods: Yep, just as we suspected. He is of zero value in fantasy golf after these last two weeks. Go get healed and repay all your owners in 2015, dawg.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover for the TOUR stop and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Wyndham Championship plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.