The 2014 PGA Championship was something special
Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson put on a show nobody will ever forget on Sunday at Valhalla.
We were due.
We really were. After a dull second nine at Augusta and mere coronations at both Opens we were teed up for a classic at Valhalla this week. The golf gods delivered ... and then some.
You kind of thought when Phil Mickelson started off hot that Sunday might be special, and then when Rickie Fowler rolled one in from 30 feet on No. 10 you started feeling it a little bit more. And then when Rory McIlroy thinned his 280-yard bomb to 7 feet for eagle on No. 10 a few minutes later, you knew.
You knew the 2014 PGA Championship would be one we'd pick out of the archives, one that would play on Golf Channel in 25 years when Mickelson is an old man and we're all nostalgic about that little kid from Holywood who club twirled and stomped his way to glory down the final nine in Louisville, Ky.
The finish might not have had a 1987 Masters or even a 2013 British Open look to it but the preceding four hours? Oh, they were as good as golf gets.
Mickelson and Fowler combined for 10 birdies in their first 11 holes, something McIlroy was busy taking note of:
This is your photo of the tournament - pic.twitter.com/PoVdT7E1Xd— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 10, 2014
Then the Ulsterman shut it down like the swag-stepping, birdie-making, club-twirlin' boss that he is right now.
The greatest golfer on the planet.
"Yeah, he's good," Mickelson said of McIlroy. "Really good."
Fowler added his sentiments.
"He's playing quite good right now. Best player in the world, hands down. We'll see if we can sneak one away from him at some point."
I'm not sure if that's going to be possible right now, although it wasn't for lack of trying from Fowler and the left-handed Hall-of-Famer.
McIlroy was nonplussed by it all afteward, noting that this is just another stepping stone.
"My focus is trying to complete this year Grand Slam and then move forward and try and become the most successful European ever, and hopefully in time, if I can do that, then I can move on and set different goals."
You know, normal 25-year-old stuff.
This was how it had to be, too. You don't get four straight coronations. The 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championships and even this year's British Open -- those were silly confirmations that McIlroy is a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
This was something totally different.
This was somebody entering his prime sneering at yesteryear and America's next top talent and saying, "You'll have to come and take it."
It was something I'm not sure we've seen since Tiger Woods was closing down majors in red and black. McIlroy is a nice dude off the course, one of the nicest, but on it he was (and is) a badass.
The best in the world and somebody who knows it.
That's why Sunday was so fun. Because you had the people's choice in Phil trying to scrape the bottom of the well again in his mid-40s, the tweens' choice in Fowler trying to deliver on his crazy-good new swing and swagger to boot.
And then there was McIlroy, standing in history's shadow (not to mention the one of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger, the only two golfers before him to win four majors before age 26), murdering drives down the stretch and roaring mightily on the 18th green at the very end.
He knew he'd won a classic -- our first in a while. He knew he'd need something huge down the stretch. He thought 30 on the back nine but it turns out his 32 was enough, by one.
It was all so perfect. The perfect end to the major season.
"I've never won three times in a row," McIlroy said. "I've never won two majors back-to-back. It's a whole new experience for me, doing what I've done this summer. I was trying to let it all sink in."
That's what we'll all be doing for the next 242 days.
Until the Masters, anyway.
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