Rory leads golden age of golf

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lifts the Wanamaker Trophy after capturing the PGA Championship at...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lifts the Wanamaker Trophy after capturing the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, August 12, 2012. (Mathieu Belanger/REUTERS)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

When the switch was thrown and extra juice flowed into the Rory McIlroy marquee on Sunday as he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy, it should have been a blinking, neon sign of things to come in golf, but probably won’t be with the obsession for the guy who tied for 11th at Kiawah Island.

It was more than his Sunday red shirt at the PGA Championship that made McIlroy look like Tiger Woods in his prime. It was his poise, even when Ian Poulter dogged him at the beginning of the round with six birdies in his first seven holes.

McIlroy began the round three shots ahead, but didn’t sweat Poulter, taking par when he needed to, but adding three birdies of his own on the front nine and another on 12. At that point, McIlroy was up by a commanding six as Poulter began to falter on the back nine.

In the end, McIlroy shot a six-under 66 to finish 13 under and win another major by eight shots to mirror his remarkable effort at last year’s U.S. Open, set a new tournament record and return to No. 1 in the world rankings.

His dominance was Tiger-like, but until McIlroy wins his 14th major, we really can’t compare career accomplishments to Woods, but he’s setting a good pace.

In winning his second major yesterday, McIlroy, 23, is younger by a few months than Woods was when he won his second at the 1999 PGA Championship, but to bring up such things is considered by many as a diss on Woods, who will once again be favoured in April at Augusta.

McIlroy’s ascension to the highest plateau of the game should not be seen as a changing of the guard, simply the confirmation of a true rival for Woods in the majors and there are more more like him who are coming.

We are in a golden era that Woods is still a big part of, but many people, usually those who cut their teeth in golf during Tiger’s dominance, are too obstinate to believe the game is anything other than a one-man band.

It isn’t as if McIlroy is an upstart.

He has paid his dues, most notably at the Masters last year when he started the final round with a four-shot lead, but blew up on the back nine. To defy the predictions that meltdown would ruin him, McIlroy reacted with his dominating performance at the U.S. Open.

There have been displays of petulance and some wondered if he was enjoying the high life too much when he struggled at times after winning the Honda Classic earlier this year.

McIlroy’s reply was a bogey-free final round on a difficult and windy golf course in making his fourth PGA Tour victory his second major.

That requires not only game, but maturity and poise that makes him a legitimate favourite in any major, no matter who else is in the field.

TIGER ISN’T BACK...YET

Woods is not “back,” if you define that popular but vague term by applying Tiger’s own measure of success, that being how he does in the majors.

That was fine when Woods was winning majors, but if he doesn’t win next April at Augusta at the age of 37, it will be five years, or roughly 30 percent of his career to date, without a major by the time the U.S. Open rolls around.

It’s not as if we haven’t heard from Tiger in the big ones.

He was tied for the 36-hole lead at this year’s U.S. Open and at Kiawah Island to send TV types, tour officials and fans into ecstasy, but Woods has stalled on moving day at majors, not a good thing for a guy who isn’t known for winning them without having the 54-hole lead.

Glory’s Last Shot, the cornball nickname given the PGA Championship, didn’t happen for Tiger, so we’re looking T40 (Masters), T21 (U.S. Open), T3 (British Open) and T11 (PGA Championship) finishes in the majors this year.

With three very impressive wins so far this season outside of the majors, Woods’ comeback from injuries and personal problems went into overdrive, but it won’t be complete until he gets his distances dialed in and his putter going at the same time to win a few majors.

We’re not making this stuff up, just using the definition of “back” that was set by Tiger himself.

SNAPPING THE STREAK

After his win at last year’s U.S. Open, McIlroy’s win on Sunday snapped a streak of different individuals winning the last 16 majors ... European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal didn’t make the cut himself, but he must have been consoled by seeing six potential Europeans players in the top 10 at the PGA Championship, They include McIlroy, England’s David Lynn (2), Justin Rose (T3), Poulter.(T3), Jamie Donaldson of Wales (T7) and Sweden’s Peter Hanson (T7) ... Masters champ Bubba Watson finished the highest of the three previous major champs this year, tying for 11th at two under ... Par fives are generally considered birdie opportunities, but Cameron Tringale blew that theory out of the water on the seventh hole during his third round. Instead of a four, Tringale came away with a 10 and was eight over for the tournament by the end of the morning session. He then shot a fourth round 82.

 


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