by Jeff Skinner
The equation for winning a major championship is simple. All it takes is hard work, mental toughness, steady nerves, a bit of luck and a good amount of golfing skill. Rory McIlroy delivered on all counts today at The PGA Championship.
In fact, McIlroy displayed such skill on the Ocean Course that he lapped the field on his way to a record eight stroke victory. The previous margin of victory at The PGA was seven strokes by Jack Nicklaus but with an emphatic birdie on the eighteenth hole young McIlroy pushed his lead to eight strokes. Eight seems to be Rory’s magic number in majors as he also finished eight strokes ahead of the field when he won his first major at the 2011 U.S. Open.
McIlroy started the day with a three stroke lead and never faltered on his way to a bogey free, six birdie round of 66. He looked in total control of his game and made just about every putt he faced. His early birdies at two and three sent a message to the field: come and get me. Many tried but few could sustain any real charge at the 23 year old Northern Irishman.
Ian Poulter looked to be mounting an impressive threat with five straight birds and six birdies on his first seven holes. But a few wayward tee shots on his back nine lead to three straight bogeys and doomed his fate. Tiger Woods continued his string of poor weekend play at the majors and could only manage a round of par 72.
The day truly belonged to the very popular McIlroy and he moved to number one in the world with the win. But it wasn’t long ago that Rory looked to have lost his focus. With missed cuts at The Players, The Memorial and his defense of the U.S. Open, McIlroy was said to be “too distracted” by all the trappings of fame fortune and everything that can distract a young man with a boat load of money.
But McIlroy wasn’t about to squander his talents and rededicated himself to his game. Over the past few weeks he had his swing coach, Michael Bannon with him in the states. Bannon usually stays home in Ireland but McIlroy summoned him to come over and work on his swing. He also spent plenty of time with short game coach Dave Stockton who’s work had transformed Rory’s putting game previously. Stockton also helped McIlroy’s mental approach to the game and that truly paid dividends on the course today as McIlroy played relaxed, patient golf.
Today’s performance was McIlroy at his best and he showed what he is capable of when he his focused, patient and mentally prepared. This was the Rory that ate up Congressional and set the record for low score to par at The U.S. Open with 16 under.
When Rory won at Congressional last year he was christened the future of the game. That’s a heavy burden for anyone to carry but this week’s performance at The PGA Championship certainly shows that Rory McIlroy has all the tools required to be the best player in the world. And as long as he maintains his focus and continues to work hard, physically and mentally, there is now limit to what this kid can do.