Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy defeated Spain’s Sergio Garcia and American Rickie Fowler to hoist the Claret Jug and become Champion Golfer of 2014 as he won The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake). His final round of one-under-par 71 saw him post 17-under, 271 to defeat Garcia and Fowler by two shots as they finished on 15-under 273. American Jim Furyk continued his excellent play in 2014 by finishing one shot back alone in fourth.
Beginning the day six shots ahead of Fowler, McIlroy began the day with a birdie at No. 1 that put him in the right frame of mind. After back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6, he rolled in back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 to steady the ship. The closest his lead on the back nine was two shots but he had all of the confidence, experience and excellence to hold off his competitors and eventually hold up the Claret Jug.
McIlroy’s dominance this week started with the driver and ended with the putter and touched every club in between. He carved up the par-five holes as his driver found the middle of most of those fairways. He carved up Royal Liverpool because his putter not only holed birdie putts but saved plenty of pars from five to 10 feet. Some will argue that he had the favorable side of the draw but his 66-66 was hardly handed to him. On Saturday when the field essentially went out in the same conditions, he found eagle-bogey-eagle to finish and post 68 to INCREASE his lead. On Sunday he played smartly and assuredly, like a two-time, major champion should in that situation. The cool part about McIlroy is that he’s now done all of this in just 25 short years on the planet. I guess it was obvious to his father that this was going to take place as he placed a $400 wager on his son at age 10 that he would win The Open by the time he was 25. Not bad at 500-1 odds! #chaching
In 2013-14 season McIlroy has not MC on TOUR (11-11) and his worst finish was T25. He’s fulfilling the wishes all of his owners in season-long formats as seven of those 11 finishes have been top 10s, including a P2 at Honda and his victory this week. The reason gamers get feisty with him is because they expect more. They expect him not to blow a five-shot lead at Honda. They expect him not to fire in the mid-70s on Fridays. They expect him to win every time he tees it up. If gamers were handed a sheet before the season started that McIlroy would have won a major, finished second and had 11 top 25s in 11 events, NONE OF THEM would have said “no, thanks”. None. Zero. Zilch.
What can’t he do? He’s now held three of the four major championships and he’s led at the 54-hole point of every major. Ian Poulter’s caddy, Terry Mundy, remarked on Twitter that the only major he hasn’t won is the one that suits his game the best, the Masters. I have tickets to Friday’s second round next year at Augusta and can’t wait to be a part of the circus, unless of course he shoots 78 that afternoon!
Moving forward, there is no reason to leave him out at WGC-BI, the PGA or any of the Playoff venues. He’s a player that NEVER seems to be satisfied and loves to collect trophies. Remember in 2012 when he won back-to-back Playoff events? Yeah, me too. Remember when he had the lead on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday? Yeah, me too. He’s toasted Congressional, Kiawah and now Hoylake. He’s just turned 25. He’s done plenty and still has plenty to do.
With his victory, his third major, McIlroy collects $1,440,000, 600 FedExCup points and his first Claret Jug.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 24 of 36 events in 2013-14. 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.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama joined Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy joins the European crew that now has won two of the three majors. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and now 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 36 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, 18 of 35 leaders have gone on to win as McIlroy did what everyone thought he would do with a six-shot lead on a Sunday.
Phil Mickelson tried to join Old Tom Morris as the only player to defend their Open Championship in their 40s. His only round of the week in the 60s was 68 on Sunday to finish in the top 30. His below-average 2014 continues.
He’s now the youngest player to go wire-to-wire to win multiple majors and just the fourth player overall. Ever.
Now, four of the last five major champions have been multiple winners. Only Jason Dufner at Oak Hill last August is the “newbie” in this group.
McIlroy joins Woods (2006) and Roberto de Vincenzo (1967) as the only three players to win at Hoylake in 50 years.
Justin Rose (T23) and Brian Harman (T26) couldn’t join the exclusive club of players to win the week before a major and then win the major the following week. Harman was the best Open rookie finisher.
For the fourth year in a row the winner of The Open Championship played at the Scottish Open the week prior. #preparation
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. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
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 (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 won at Greenbrier. Jim Furyk continues his excellent 2014, minus a victory, as he finished alone in fourth.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 who all will return to The Open in 2015 at St. Andrews. The top four finishers will all be exempt to the 2015 Masters.
Sergio Garcia: His T2 was his fourth, top-five finish in 18 starts at The Open and it was his eighth top 10. His wonderful ball-striking is a thing of beauty as he just peppers fairways and greens. Starting the day seven back was going to be difficult, especially with McIlroy leading, but Garcia showed real class in his 66 on Sunday. He’s an automatic choice for me in this event no matter the game.
Rickie Fowler: His T2 was his second in as many majors and third top five of 2014 in the biggest events (T5, Masters). He put all four rounds in the 60s and did not win. There not too many guys who can say that at this event EVER! Fowler’s new confidence as a horse in Butch Harmon’s stable is obvious as shown by his results in the biggest events of the season (3rd at WGC-Match Play). The only “hope” for Fowler entering Sunday was that his two wins world-wide had seen McIlroy finish second. That wasn’t the case today but now gamers need to see if Fowler can continue the consistency over the last two months of the season. Remember, after solo sixth in Houston followed by T5 at Augusta, Fowler then ripped off T38, T77, MC and MC before T13 at FESJC that righted his summer ship. Don’t forget he also finished T8 at Royal Aberdeen the week leading up to Hoylake. McIlroy also played that week and finished T14.
Jim Furyk: The biggest conundrum for me this week was whether to trust the form chart or the links golf chart with Furyk. His 2014 was excellent but his last five to The Open hadn’t produced a result better than T34 in his last five. As the fade sheet usually does, it produced another top 10 player as Furyk finished fourth alone after posting a tournament-co-low 65. He began the day 10 shots behind and his 65 only made up six of those shots. That’s how good McIlroy was today. Furyk also proved again to one-and-doners that ANYTIME is a good time to fire him. He was fourth here in 2006 as well.
Marc Leishman: Another of the Sunday 65 club, the Aussie, who we all thought would thrive in bad weather, made 20 birdies (T4) and only six bogeys (T3) for the week to finish T5. This finish puts him in the 2015 Open at St. Andrews so he won’t have that to worry about for another 365 days. His MC at Greenbrier probably scared off gamers this week. So did his T60 in three outings on the links. He’s been T11, T8, MC and T4 in his last four on TOUR so he’s been in fine form.
Adam Scott: My OAD pick this week for the second year in a row, Scott has continued to impress without winning on the links as he finished T5. He’s trending in the wrong direction as he was second in 2012 and T3 last year!! He closed with 66 and was by far the best player from the wrong side of the draw. Golf, like life, is not fair sometimes but Scott continued to grind with an impressive 69-66 weekend. With T14, T9 and now T5, it’s obvious that he’s trending in the right direction for Valhalla. Gamers, don’t forget he’s dominated at WGC-BI and DBC before if you still haven’t burned him in OAD.
Charl Schwartzel: After MC at the Masters and U.S. Open I wasn’t hustling to put him in my lineup this week. In his five Opens he had three T16 or better and two MC. With this T7, he now has FOUR T16 or better and two MC. This was best finish in 10 starts as a pro at this event. His bogey-free 67 saw him HANG ON to T7, exactly where he started the day. Read that again. That’s amazing on a Sunday in a major! His 22 birdies were second on the week.
Edoardo Molinari: The flying Molinari brothers were all over the leader board this week as Francesco was second after two rounds. Edoardo finished T7 and defeated Robert Karlsson (T12) for best bet in Group 4 of the GC.com fantasy game. He finished second at the Irish Open in late June but entered this week off of MC, T35 and MC. His four previous finishes at The Open were T60, T68, T27 and T66 so this week was a surprise, to be fair.
Shane Lowry: His T4 at Royal Aberdeen this week was the proper preparation as the Irishman found the top 10 (T9) in a major for the first time this week. A member of the Sunday 65 club, he’ll get another chance to tackle The Open next year at St. Andrews. His last three finishes worldwide have been T12, T4 and T9. Nice flier in WGC-BI next month!
Graeme McDowell: He was one of the three players in the top 20 to play Thursday over par with 74. He was one of the two to hit the top 10 (T9) after closing 69-68-67 including playing the last five holes in five-under after a double on No. 13. His form is rounding into shape as he was T6 at the Irish Open, followed by a win at the French Open and T9 this week. Must be a Ryder Cup year…
Victor Dubuisson: Speaking of the Ryder Cup, Dubuisson should be on everyone’s radar for that event and any other events he’s qualified for on TOUR. We witnessed his mad skills dueling with Jason Day in the desert as he was runner up in Match Play. He hurt his shoulder and missed part of the spring but his first tournament back he lost in a playoff to Thongchai Jaidee at the Nordea Masters. He followed that up with T28 at the U.S. Open so there’s not a doubt this kid can play. He’s No. 23 in the world and moving up after his T9 this week. His short game is legit and the results keep showing that. Like McDowell, he also opened with 74 before showing his mettle with 66-68-70 to close T9 for his first top 10 in four career majors.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Justin Rose: There was no question he was the hottest player on the planet coming into the week after his back-to-back worldwide wins but that luck and skill is hard to keep up for three events in a row. He played very well with all four rounds at par or better but his Sunday 72 saw him drop from T12 to T23.
Adam Scott: See above. He was my OAD this week.
Henrik Stenson: This was his first major in six outside of the top 21. He made three doubles this week and that never helps but his 69 on Sunday saw him finish T39. His wedge that he snapped over his knee and his wet t-shirt video were sadly more exciting than his golf for gamers this week.
Rory McIlroy: See above.
Sergio Garcia: See above.
Jordan Spieth: In only his second Open, he once again showed his class by rattling off 67 on Saturday but couldn’t back it up on Sunday. He finished T36 but only had one double or worse on the week. He gets it.
Phil Mickelson: Another week, another top 25 finish but it’s hardly what Mickelson or gamers have been banking on this season. As stated above, nobody in their 40s is defending this title but gamers have to wonder if Mickelson’s best days are starting to be behind him. Here’s a player to gears his life and schedule towards the majors. His finishes are MC, T28 and T22 in those events in 2014.
Zach Johnson: Golf is a funny game sometimes as Johnson played three of his four rounds under par and yet only finished T47. His usually lights-out short game couldn’t keep up with an excellent week of ball-striking. That’s eight for his last eight in Open Championships but his first outside of the top 14 in four.
Graeme McDowell: See above.
Matt Kuchar: His T54 matches his finish at the 2012 BMW as his worst finish on TOUR in three years where he’s played the weekend. Nothing to see here, moving on.
Dustin Johnson: He began the day in the penultimate group with Garcia but finished T12 after his bogey, double finish. Johnson was the original 65 as his was on Friday but his last two holes killed gamers on Sunday. Again. Look it up. His T12 is great if you didn’t follow the tournament all week but he was T5 before those final two holes. That’s T14 or better in four of the last five seasons across the pond.
Rickie Fowler: See above.
Brendon Todd: In his first trip across the pond, one of the hottest players on TOUR was cooled off by the winds from the Irish Sea. His T38 finish was highlighted by his closing round 67 that will continue to fan his flames of confidence moving forward in 2014.
Billy Horschel: Caught on the wrong side of the draw, Horschel fired 73-75 to MC by two. After two excellent U.S. Opens the last two years, Horschel has MC at the following Open Championships. #noted
Robert Karlsson: More proof that recent form can be the best predictor as Karlsson entered the week off 67-66 at Royal Aberdeen. He also entered the week T22 or better in four of his last five events and three of those were T8 or better! His T12 this week does nothing to screw any of that up!
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 RBC Canadian Open and 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.