Given that Tiger Woods failed to make the cut at the PGA Championship, golf desperately needed some drama heading into the weekend.
Well, golf got it.
The PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club came down to the final hole Sunday, with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk all finishing in the top five.
“I think the PGA was desperately in need of a tournament like this,” Yahoo! Sports golf writer Shane Bacon said on The MoJo Show. “I mean, they needed something to happen that would be exciting with some big names battling down the stretch, and I think it was almost exactly what they really wanted.”
In the end, McIlroy won his second straight major, finishing with a 16-under 268 to best Mickelson (269) and Fowler (270).
“It was pretty fun to watch,” Bacon said. “The way he closed it out – that birdie on 17 – that’s what separates you, when you make those 20-footers that you need to make on the 71st hole. He made that and pretty much put the tournament away. I was really impressed. It looked at one point that he’d really lose the tournament. Then he just kind of turned it on in the back nine.”
McIlroy entered the PGA Championship as the favorite and won by the slimmest of margins, his recent hot streak showing no signs of slowing down.
“What I’ve always been impressed with is when guys win golf tournaments when we expect them to win golf tournaments,” Bacon said. “Of course, Phil Mickelson and Bubba (Watson) – these guys will randomly win a major or a tournament. But when you’re the favorite – the heavy favorite going into the tournament – and you’re able to win that tournament, to me, that really shows that your game’s in the right spot. But mentally, you’re so much in control of what you’re doing. He didn’t have his best stuff this week. I think he’d probably be the first to tell you that wasn’t his A+ game, and he was still able to win. And I think that’s when you really start saying, ‘We can compare Rory McIlroy to some of these other legends of the game that we’ve talked about for so many years.”
Yes, it’s amazing what a break-up can do for a guy.
“He mentioned something after (the tournament) and of course he handled it very professionally,” Bacon said, referencing McIlroy’s former fiance, Caroline Wozniacki. “(He basically said), ‘My life right now is me. I get to wake up, play golf, go to the gym and it’s about me.’ Think about any job. When personal stuff is bad, you’re not the best you can be at your job. That’s something we’re seeing with Rory McIlroy right now. It was a relationship he had. It was a fine public relationship, but it seemed to distract. And when you’re trying to be the best athlete in the word at something, distractions hurt – and that’s no knock to anybody in this situation. I just think that right now, Rory is clearly focused on one thing – and he’s really dominating.”
McIlroy joined Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones as the only golfers in the last century to win four majors before the age of 26. Not bad for a player who had enormous expectations heaped upon him as a teenager.
“Much like LeBron, much like Tiger, he’s lived up to those expectations,” Bacon said. “And to me, that’s incredibly impressive, especially in golf because it’s just so hard to be good at this game and to dominate at this type of level.”
As for Woods, his chances of playing in the Ryder Cup are all but dead.
“I don’t understand where we’re going to see Tiger turn it around or get healthy,” Bacon said. “I understand Tom Watson (being non-committal). It’s easier to say he might be on the team than to say he’s definitely not. But I just don’t understand how you can pick a guy that’s obviously not healthy and not sharp enough right now to be on a team when you’re already an enormous underdog.”