Sunday’s final round of the 96th PGA Championship was eventful on so many levels. There was drama, excitement, a little controversy, and a final hole that was historical in a way nobody could have imagined. And when they dust settled, there was a familiar name that came away victorious and once again grasping the trophy: Rory Mcllroy.
“Without a doubt it was one of the greatest major championships I have ever seen,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said. “Given the ending, it is not only one of the best major championships of all time, it is one of the craziest. All of those chapters playing out at the same time. It was like Quentin Tarantino wrote the final chapter to this movie.”
For the third time in as many appearances, the Palm Beach Gardens resident won a golf tournament that he teed it up in. First it was his first Open Championship, then two weeks later it was his first World Golf Championship title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and on Sunday it was the second time he has lifted the Wanamker Trophy as the PGA Champion.
Unlike his first PGA Championship, or even his U.S. Open win and his three international wins already this year, this one was by far his toughest.
On top of the star studded leader board that saw the likes of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, and Henrik Stenson all within only a few shots of the lead entering Sunday, Rory got off to an inauspicious start to his final round. When he made the turn and headed to the 10th tee he had let his lead slip with some early birdies and found himself down by three shots to Phil, Rickie, and Stenson.
It quickly turned into a 4-way heavyweight battle where none of the four seemed to falter and every big shot was matched by an even bigger shot. For four hours, CBS treated all of its viewers for a roller coaster ride of excitement around every turn. With soft conditions, the 4 golfers were firing at the pins at will leading to amazing shot after amazing shot everywhere you looked. At one point when Rory was struggling to get anything going on the front nine, it seemed that Mickelson, Fowler, and Stenson couldn’t miss. When they did and you thought there was no way they would be able to hit out of trouble they did. It seemed like Mcllroy was fading into the abyss when he stepped onto the tee box at 10.
After pipping his tee shot a little over 300 yards to the right part of the fairway he knew it was go time. He knew if he had any shot of getting his lead back he would have to take advantage of his long drive and go for the green on the par 5 10th in two. Rory pulled out his 3-wood and hit it 281 yards. When the ball came to a stop on the green it was just five feet from the cup. He made his eagle putt and all of a sudden the deficit was only one shot.
“The ball flight was probably around 30 feet lower than I intended, and the line of the shot was probably around 15 yards left of where I intended,” McIlroy admitted. “It was lucky, it really was.”
Meanwhile, the other three held steady despite Rory making his run. There was bunker save after bunker save by Stenson. There was par putt save after par putt save for Phil. Rickie Fowler was hanging tight again like had at the Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open where he recorded top 5 finishes in all three.
Then Rory birdied 13 to tie things back up and that’s when things started to change. Stenson and Fowler bogeyed 14 to end their run. Then Phil bogeyed 16 to effectively end his shot. Rory saw his opening again and delivered his final knockout blow.
After his tee shot went into the bunker at 17, Mcllroy once again hit a fantastic shot that saw his ball out of the bunker land within 10 feet of the cup. He drained the birdie putt that would ultimately give him the victory, but not before a little controversy crept in that would result in something never before seen in a major in recent history.
Another day of rain caused a 90 minute delay early on Sunday that resulted in all tee times being pushed back. With the final four golfers (Rory, Phil, Rickie, and Rory’s playing partner Bernd Wiesberger) all teeing off after 4pm ET due to the delay there were constant questions about whether or not they would be able to complete the round before darkness hit or if they would all have to come back and finish on Monday.
With Rory having made his birdie putt on 17 and holding onto a two shot lead, he quickly walked up to the tee box at 18 where he saw Fowler and Mickelson waiting to tee off still. Mcllroy asked if he and Wiesberger could join Phil and Rickie and play as a foursome off the par 5 18th to save time in hopes of getting the round in. What ended up happening was Mickelson and Fowler teed off and, while walking to their ball Mcllroy and Wiesberger went and teed off as well. While it was agreed upon, there was some confusion as to how the final hole would proceed.
Fowler and Mickelson hit their approach shots on 18 with Fowler getting to the green in two while Mickelson’s apporach shot landed just short of the green. Both needed eagles to have a chance of forcing a Monday playoff. That’s when Mcllroy and Wiesberger hit their approach shots as well which, if you saw the looks on Phil’s and Rickie’s faces seemed to be not part of the plan.
Both golfers missed their eagle opportunites, with Mickelson nearly holing his chip shot from off the green and Rory safely two-putted to claim the victory but all anyone wanted to talk about after was how the 72nd hole was played, including the golf pundits.
I don’t know if I would have done that,” said Frank Nobilo, another former pro and Chamblee’s frequent sparring partner on the Golf Channel in regards to Mickeslon and Fowler’s decision to let them tee off. “I would have said, ‘No way, you can wait. This is the PGA Championship, you can wait and let us finish the hole out.”
“Typically if it’s getting dark and they are going to below the horn, you at least get the guys off the tee and it gives them the opportunity to play,” Fowler said. “We weren’t expecting the approach shots. So however you look at it. It is what it is.”
Not only did the win catapult Mcllroy into the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings with the start of the playoffs just two weeks away, it put him into some categories with very elite company. Mcllroy became just the fourth player in the last 100 years to win four majors by the age of 25. The other three: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Bobby Jones. He also becomes only the fifth golfer to win the Open Championship and PGA Championship in the same year joining Woods, Nick Price, Walter Hagen, and Padraig Harrington.
“To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot,” he said. “It means that I know that I can do it. I know that I can come from behind. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top.”
Mcllroy will now take the next week off as he enjoys some R&R. He plans on spending a few days in New York City before jetting across the pond to catch at Manchester United game (his favorite team) where he will be honored for winning the Open Championship and now PGA Championship before returning to the U.S. and the Barclays where he will hope to get his fourth straight win.
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) August 11, 2014
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