August 11, 2014. If the art of winning is a matter of habit, Rory McIlroy is cultivating it with an unrelenting eagerness. The 25 year old managed to survive a water soaked course and early nerves as he managed to clinch a one shot victory over Phil Mickelson. McIlroy’s third straight victory and a second consecutive major came after an intense final round, where he worked his way back after slipping behind by three on the outward nine. Eventually, McIlroy won his second PGA Championship at 16 under 268 with a resilient show on the final stretch in near darkness. Mickelson was desperately close to a sixth major, before settling for second, one shot behind McIlroy. Rickie Fowler capped a great season, tying for third with Henrik Stenson at -14, to ensure he finished inside top 5 at each of the four majors this season.
McIlroy got off to a rather slow and sliding start, making bogeys at the third and sixth hole to find himself losing his slender overnight lead. Even though he birdied the par-5 at the seventh hole, McIlroy was three behind Fowler and Stenson and two from Mickelson as he assessed his options after making the turn in 36.
Raw ambition has been the cornerstone of McIlroy’s commitment to golf, driving him to even annul his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in order to earn the freedom needed for his pursuit of golfing greatness. And the tenth capsulated the essence of that – McIlroy was lying 280 yards out after his tee shot at the par-5. The Northern Irishman showed a fearless pride when he struck his second with the precision of a craftsman and the power of a woodcutter to within 7 feet from the flag.
The eagle at the tenth was a pivotal moment on an intense final day and perhaps the one that returned the momentum back towards McIlroy who seemed very tenuous through the first nine holes. A birdie at the 13th hole returned him to even terms with his hunters, setting up a glorious finish to the final major of the season. McIlroy, driving long as he has been this entire week, struck 318 yards into the fairway bunker at the 17th, before getting up and down in two for the final birdie of his round.
That was enough to earn him victory with a par at the 18th, where Mickelson fell agonisingly short for an eagle that was needed to force a play-off. McIlroy’s victory heralds the beginning of a new era in golf, an era which might see some interesting duels between two 25 year olds, if Fowler can build on his excellent run this season. Success has also brought immense wealth to McIlroy – just his winnings on the course this past month have accumulated to $4,995,788 – with $1.8mn for his triumph at Valhalla, $1.53mn for winning the PGA Championship and another $1.67mn for his victory at Hoylake. Most importantly this success proves beyond doubt that McIlroy could pursue lasting greatness over the course of his promising career.
Report by Anand Datla
Pic: PGA Tour Website (Getty Images)