When Rory McIlroy won the British Open Golf championship at Hoylake in July, it appeared that he was coasting at times and was never in real danger of losing a healthy lead at the head of affairs. Compare that to the manner in which he clinched his second successive major by winning the US PGA championship at Valhalla after an enthralling final during which he faced several challenges at the top of the leaderboard.
The Irishman led the field by a single shot after the third round in which had accumulated an aggregate score of 13 under par for the course. That in itself begs the question as to whether courses are becoming too easy or simply that modern day golfers are so much better in their technique and their ability to drive ever further distances.
McIlroy is one of those golfers with the ability to reach a par five green in two shots but at Valhalla, he needed not only that special skill but a degree of nerve in coping with the challenges of his fellow competitors. Once again Ricky Fowler proved his dogged determination by taking a single stroke lead during the final round as McIlroy briefly faltered during the opening holes and was one over par for his round.
Then it was the turn of that old warhorse Phil Mickelson to mount a challenge and suddenly McIlroy was three strokes adrift on a course which had been affected by a serious downpour during the early part of the day causing a temporary suspension of play.
Mickelson was playing ahead of the Irishman and holed a series of birdies on the front nine of the course which offered a direct challenge to the mental attitude of McIlory. He has stated that golf is now the main focus in his life following the breakdown of his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and now he needed to demonstrate his ability to win in adversity.
Sensing that Mickelson could not maintain his momentum and with Fowler unable to advance his score by the required margin, McIlroy stepped into overdrive and gradually closed the gap at the top. In the gathering darkness at Valhallah in Kentucky, the Irishman managed to finish his round for an aggregate 16 under par, just one stroke ahead of Mickelson with Fowler a further shot behind in joint third place with Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson.
By claiming the PGA title, McIlroy was winning his fourth major which prompted the great Jack Nicklaus to announce that he was capable of winning 20. There is still a long way to go for World number one golfer but he is still young and may now have surpassed the struggling Tiger Woods as the man most likely to break the Nicklaus record of 18 majors.
It has been a great summer for McIlroy but the onus is now on the Irish golfer to repeat these performances on an annual basis.
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