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The Pour on the Shore! Rory McIlroy Wins the 2012 PGA Championship
[Editor's Note: Cybergolf's Jay Flemma and Marino Parascenzo were in South Carolina for the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Here's Jay's final report.]
The Wanamaker Awaits Rory
So this is what Rory McIlroy does for an encore, reduce another reputedly unconquerable golf course to so much flotsam and jetsam en route to another major victory, this time the 2012 PGA Championship. Europe's proper rejoinder to Tiger Woods turned Pete Dye's supposedly Ram-tough Kiawah Island Ocean Course into a Tonka toy and ran away from the field in the final round like Usain Bolt, cruising to an eight-shot victory over back-door second-place finisher David Lynn of England.
"It was an absolute tour de force," praised the PGA of America's Kelly Elbin, who also announced that McIlroy shattered the PGA Championship records for largest margin of victory (formerly owned by Jack Nicklaus), and youngest champion since the tournament returned to stroke play in 1958. As if that isn't enough historical context to impress even the most jaded golf fan, consider that only four other golfers have won two major championships at a younger age (23) - Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Gene Sarazen and Young Tom Morris.
"I don't really care if I win by one or if I win by eight, I just want to win and I was able to do that today," said a beaming McIlroy as he posed with the PGA Championship trophy.
McIlroy's line score for the week was a dazzling 67-75-67-66=275, 13-under par. "If you'd have told me 20 years ago someone would do that to this course I would have blown a snot bubble at you," joked CBS funny man and broadcaster David Feherty.
"Dominant," was the description countless other golfers, writers and fans called it. McIlroy's lone over-par blemish was attributable more to 30-mile-per hour winds that blew the field scoring average to a bloated 78.1 in Friday's second round.
"It was like Muirfield [for 2002 British Open] it was so bad," confided Tiger Woods, who watched helplessly as McIlroy played the weekend 15 shots better than he.
"Tiger needs his 'A' game to come up against Rory," chirped a proud and puckish 2008 PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington.
McIlroy candidly attributed part of his Tiger-esque performance to the soft, benign conditions that a rain-soaked Ocean Course presented. "The conditions made the difference," he asserted. "You know, we had a lot of overnight rain a lot of the nights. And you know, if this golf course was firm the scoring wouldn't be anywhere near what it was. And you know, I've seen a few clips of the Ryder Cup in '91, and it looked very windy and it looked very dry."
Even so, the rest of the field had exactly the same conditions. They had to endure with incessant rain delays that ultimately postponed completion of the third round until early Sunday morning; they had to survive a vicious crosswind on Friday that made the supermodel-slim fairways nigh impossible to hit; and they had to dodge alligators that ate everything from snakes to CBS-Sports' microphones.
The crocs may have eaten the mics, but Rory ate everyone else. He took home the Wanamaker Trophy for dessert.
The story of the tournament is incomplete without praising two other golfers as well. Sweden's Carl Petterson played brilliantly all week, only to suffer a brutally bad break on the first hole of the final round. With his ball in a hazard, Petterson accidentally moved a leaf on his backswing, costing him not only a two-shot penalty but sole possession of second place and $480,500 in prize money.
The 18th at The Ocean Course
"The rule is fair because if you have it so it's not a penalty, people would be able to improve the path of their downswing and have a chance at a cleaner ball strike. It's not stupid, and it can't be changed. It's just unfortunate and I have to take it on the chin . . . or chins as the case may be," quipped the portly but honest and self-effacing Petterson in a small media scrum after the round.
"Sucks for me," he lamented. Petterson finished at 4-under 284, tied with Justin Rose, defending champion Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter.
Poulter grabbed the day's other major headlines, shockingly carding eight birdies in the first 12 holes of the final round and reaching 8-under before bogeying four of the closing five holes and fading to 4-under. For a while it looked like he might not only shoot 62 and seize sole possession of professional golf's major championship scoring record, but in doing so, silence (we hope) Johnny Miller's incessant braggadocio about his closing 63 at Oakmont in 1973. That would have been quite the double whammy.
But only Rory was able to avoid the streak of bogeys that plagued every other player in the field at some point in the rain-soaked tournament. His opening and closing rounds were clean cards - five birdies, no bogeys on Thursday, six birdies, no bogeys on Sunday.
And so the coast of Carolina rang with the cheering - "Ro-ry! Ro-ry! Ro-ry!" - just as Congressional did 14 months ago. It will be more Red Breast Irish Whiskey and John Smith's Smooth and a "party for the Paddies" (as Rory put it last year), this time out of a much bigger trophy. The Wanamaker is so big Rory will probably spill it on his Sunday-red Oakley shirt. But something tells me that after getting soaked all week on the golf course he can handle a little spillage.
"To win my second major and get to world No. 1 all in the same day is very special," he said. "And you know, now I have had a little taste of it . . . I want some more."
Judging from the reception the American golf fans have been giving him, so do they.
News, Notes & Quotes
This was as rainy a PGA Championship as Oakland Hills in 2008 when 36 holes were played on Sunday by many players, and almost as rain-soaked as Baltusrol in 2005 which saw a Monday finish. Happily it was nowhere near as bad as the 2009 Bathpage U.S. Open . . . er . . . Bethpage U.S. Open.
The first eight berths have been earned on the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Team. The U.S. points' list was concluded at the end of play Sunday, with these players set to compete against Europe next month:
Tiger Woods (his seventh Ryder Cup)
Bubba Watson (second straight Ryder Cup)
Jason Dufner (Ryder Cup debut)
Keegan Bradley (Ryder Cup debut)
Webb Simpson (Ryder Cup debut)
Zach Johnson (third Ryder Cup)
Matt Kuchar (second straight Ryder Cup)
Phil Mickelson (ninth straight Ryder Cup appearance, which sets the U.S. Team record for most consecutive appearances and most all-time appearances)
U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Love will select the final four members of the Team on September 4, and the 39th Ryder Cup will take place September 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma 's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 420 nationally ranked public golf courses in 40 different states, and covered seven U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships, along with one trip to the Masters. A four-time award-winning sportswriter, Jay was called the best sports poet alive by both Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports writers and broadcasters. Jay has played about 3 million yards of golf - or close to 2,000 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf, PGA.com, Golf Magazine and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.
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