Monday, 11 August 2014
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

By Nick Totten
At Valhalla Golf Club 

As darkness fell on a damp and humid Kentucky Sunday, the flashbulbs of the assembled media were trained on one man – and one alone – as Rory McIlroy took his place amongst the golfing Gods at a course fittingly named Valhalla.

There can be few things sweeter than the feeling the Ulsterman gets every time he steps on the tee of late, en route to an unprecedented triple that has seen the World Number One reassert himself as a Major force within the game.

His triumph at Royal Liverpool was a watershed moment, a chance for the globe to once again bask in the glow of the 25 year old’s currently unrivalled talents. Some – even him – had questioned whether he had the game for Open Championship golf, but boy did he put that argument to bed on Sunday July 20, 2014.

For most that would have been enough, the subsequent weeks a chance to reflect in what he had achieved, but there would be none of that for McIlroy. One night out with the boys, a Claret Jug full of Jägermeister, but back to business straight after.

Next up was Akron, Ohio and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational where once again his burgeoning rivalry with Sergio Garcia was fully evident. That final day, some 14 removed from Hoylake, it was the Northern Irishman who did the chasing en route to a maiden World Golf Championships title and the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Once again for most that would be enough, for a while at least, but not Rory. His hunger was greater than ever, and on a week that rewarded long, precise hitting and a cultured touch on the greens in Kentucky, he could not be beaten.

For times he looked down and out as others around him soared on Sunday, the likes of home heroes Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler whipping the galleries into a frenzy, while Henrik Stenson played his part to boot.

Then an eagle at the tenth, a birdie at the 13th to reassert himself, but the door still ajar for those in close attendance. Not for much longer.

A pushed drive, a difficult fairway bunker shot, but no bother. McIlroy subsequently dispatched a mid-iron with the precision to which the golfing world has become accustomed in recent months, and the ten footer that followed at the penultimate hole slammed the door shut.

Cue a tap in par at the last and a second US PGA Championship title was his, a fourth career Major, and his place amongst the greats complete.

"Today wasn't easy,” said the newly crowned two time US PGA Champion. “I didn't get off to the best of starts, and the guys came at me pretty quickly, and we were talking on the front nine and I just couldn't really get anything going.

"So I needed to stay patient and bide my time and wait for something to click, something to happen and that something happened on the 10th hole. To make eagle there was a big turning point in the tournament, and from there, I kicked on and played some great golf down the stretch.

"I said I thought winning The Open Championship a few weeks ago had sort of put me on a higher level in this game. But then to win a fourth major here, to be one behind Phil, one behind Seve, level with Ernie, level with Raymond Floyd. I mean, I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age.

"It's something that I'm just going to have to come to terms with in a way. I was happy being a two time Major Champion coming into this year, and all of a sudden I'm a four time Major Champion and going for the career Grand Slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is. Not that I'm counting.

"It's just been an incredible run of golf, and I just couldn't be more proud of myself or happier with where my game's at.”

It has been a truly astounding run over the past three weeks from a man who is already on the fast track to legendary status within the game, but what next for a golfer who has achieved so much in such a short space of time - more records.

McIlroy does not shy away from talking about what he hopes to achieve in the game, and what he may lack in years, he is already making up for with silverware, as he chases down the milestones of the great names that have come before him.

"To win today in this fashion and this style, it means a lot,” said the World Number One. “It means that I know that I can do it, I know that I can come from behind, and I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a Major and come out on top.

“Phil Mickelson, the second best player here this year and this generation, to be able to beat him on the back nine on a Sunday, it's great to have in the memory bank and great to have in the locker going forward.

"I think the two next realistic goals are the career Grand Slam, and trying to become the most successful European player ever. Nick Faldo, the most successful European ever in the modern era    has six Majors, while Seve has five.

"Obviously the career Grand Slam coming up at Augusta in eight months’ time or whatever it is too, they are the next goals.

"And hopefully when I achieve those I can start to think about other things, but right now, that's what my focus is. My focus is trying to complete this career Grand Slam and then move forward and try and become the most successful European ever, and hopefully in time, if I can do that, then I can move on and set different goals.”

Golfing world, take note.

His recent run of results has been special, nay, unbelievable, but if Rory McIlroy has anything to do with it, then we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Bring on Augusta.

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