The popular thing at the moment is trying to figure out just how great Rory McIlory can be by comparing him to the legends of golf, but simply focusing on the fact that he’s the best golfer in the world, winning the 2014 PGA Championship to make it two titles in that tournament and four majors over the last four years is enough to distinguish himself from the rest of the field.
This wasn’t like his Open Championship in Liverpool not too long ago. A lot closer, with Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson all having a share of the lead during the back nine. McIlroy picked things up from the 10th hole and onward, and seemed completely at ease while the rest of the competition withered away. When he came up to the 10th hole, he was three shots behind.
He took the lead midway through that segment as all three challengers made a bogey, and with one hole to go, McIlroy took a two-shot leading going into the par 5 closing hole. Both Fowler and Mickelson, coming in behind him, tried some creative stuff to break that two-shot lead. Fowler ended up doing a bit too much, resulting in him failing to finish second after two consecutive runner-up finishes in majors. He has become the first player to finish in the top 5 of all four majors without winning any of them.
This was different for McIlroy. Not just the fact that he won back-to-back majors for the first time, or becoming the fourth player in the history of the sport to win four majors before his 26th birthday, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones. After winning his first three majors by a combined 22 shots and hardly facing any scares along the way, it was a very different story at Valhalla.
His 62 under par score through his first four major victories is he lowest cumulative score to par through a player’s first four major wins, two shots better than Tiger Woods. That says something about how good McIlroy is and can be on a historic scale, but the most important thing right now was what Phil Mickelson said after finishing second for the ninth time in his career in a major tournament: He’s better than everyone else right now.
There are still some things to accomplish this season for McIlroy and others, but he has set his mark. No longer a promise and potential, but officially the best player on tour, the biggest star in golf, unless Tiger Woods starts playing like a champion again. McIlroy isn’t on his way to make history; he has already made some over the last four seasons of golf, and it seems that there isn’t a lot standing in his way of doing a little more.