Monday, August 11, 2014

Golf's Four Leaf Clover

photo credit the guardian
The PGA Championship is often deemed the lesser of the four major championships in professional golf, but after Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy gutted out an exciting victory at Valhalla this past weekend, the same may not be said. The PGA rarely presents the same level of difficulty as the U.S.Open, nor does it carry the incredible tradition that are the Masters and the British Open. These three tournaments are tournaments that are really unique to sports, and the determination and passion seen by the players has always been incredible. However, this year, the PGA was by far the most exciting. 

The Masters was fun to watch as lovable Bubba Watson ran away with it, and won with ease. The U.S. Open was nothing short of dull as Martin Kaymer grabbed a big lead early and never looked back. The British Open, while exciting at times, was never really in doubt with Rory McIlroy stealing the show with flawless golf. At the year's final major, at 8:42 P.M. Sunday night, the Wannamaker trophy was still up for grabs, and damn it was beautiful. Some of the top players in the world came into contention, and it was clear that this major championship meant just as much to them as the other three did.

Let’s start with good ole' Lefty. Phil Mickelson inspired us all with his performance this weekend at Valhalla. Phil had an absolutely brutal 2014 for the most part. Before this weekend his best finish on the season was tied for 15th, but per usual that did not phase the veteran. Phil came out with a different look in his eyes this weekend, and on Sunday you could see that he was focused and ready to collect his 6th major title.

Phil played mistake free round on Sunday which was highlighted by a 28-foot par on the twelfth. However, Phil would have to settle for runner-up as he missed an eagle chip by a few inches that would have probably sent the tournament to a playoff. Many had put Phil on the back-burner this season and some believed that the 44 year old is slowing down, but this weekend reminded us of why you can never turn your back on Lefty. He still has the ability to win major championships and compete at the highest level with consistency.

Next, I want to formally apologize to Rickie Fowler, who I bashed this spring for not having accomplished anything in his career. I thought that he did not deserve the great fan base he had because the lack of success he's experienced. Rickie, I am sorry.

Fowler had an incredible 2014 in the majors finishing fifth, second, second, and third in the four events. Let’s also take a minute to recognize Rickie’s orange driver, which, on Sundays, matches his famous orange shirt. Once again, well played Rickie. Not only did Rickie play veryy well, he also showed an incredible amount of mental toughness this year and especially this past Sunday. He held the lead for a portion of Sunday’s round, but when others caught up to him, he did not falter like we've seen him do in the past.

Yes, he hit a couple of bad shots, but even then he did not get down on himself. Arguably Rickie’s finest moment came on the 16th hole, after he shanked his drive onto the 15th fairway, he hit a miraculous shot over the trees and onto the green, that would set up an amazing par. One cannot blame Rickie for being disappointed with his lack of victories, but keep your chin up big guy, there is a lot of success in your future.

Now, for the champion, Rory McIlroy. Rory proved his incredible ability at Congressional and Kiawah a couple of years ago, but everyone still had doubts about his mental toughness. Nobody has doubts anymore. After his victory this year at Liverpool in the Open Championship, McIlroy came into this weekend looking to join Jack and Tiger as an elite group to have won 4 majors at such a young age. It is scary to think that Rory did not play his best golf, but still shot 16 under on the weekend. When Fowler, Stenson, and Mickelson pulled ahead a little bit on Sunday, it seemed Rory would be left on the outside looking in. However, an incredible eagle on the 10th hole propelled Rory to a fantastic back nine. Coming down the stretch, there were many opportunities for Rory to choke, but he stayed within his game and saved par on the 18th to become victorious, showing why he is number 1 in the world.

With a rain delay earlier in the day, the players were trying to scramble to finish their rounds late into the night. While it is a shame that there was slight controversy, with Rory and the man who had absolutely no business being in the final group, Bernd Weisberger, hitting their shots early, making Phil and Rickie wait, and not allowing them to put as much pressure on Rory as they would have liked. Poor Bernd must have felt so out of place. However, at the end of the day, I do not think the circumstances affected the final result of the tournament. Rory McIlroy has asserted himself as the best golfer in the world, and while it is still to early to jump to conclusions about breaking records, this year proved to us that Rory has what it takes to make himself one of the most decorated golfers in the history of the game. He’s likeable, tough, passionate about the game, and let’s not forget, he is ridiculously talented.

As he sank the gimme putt for par on the 18th hole of Valhalla, Rory pumped his fists and screamed in excitement. He will be threatened by the veterans, such as Phil,and the rising stars, just like Rickie, and there will be ups and downs, but Rory right now is the man at the top. We will see if anyone can unseat him, but for now, this Irishman is not in need of any luck. Keep it up Rory, and whatever you do, be smarter than Tiger.

-Ben Greer

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