The fourth and final major of the PGA Tour is upon us: the PGA Championship.
Bubba Watson claimed his second green jacket (Masters), Martin Kaymer steamrolled the competition for the U.S. Open title, and Rory McIlroy seized the moment to garner the British Open.
And heading into Thursday, there’s no reason to believe McIlroy won’t win back-to-back majors.
Aiming to capture his second career PGA Championship victory, McIlroy is the odds-on favorite to accomplish the feat, after winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this past Sunday, and re-claiming his reign as the world’s No. 1 golfer on tour.
Entering Valhalla Golf Club, located in Louisville, Kentucky, McIlroy is seeking to become the first golfer to win consecutive majors since Padraig Harrington did it back in 2008. McIlroy is also trying to win his fourth career major, which would place him in a virtual tie for 20th all-time with golfers such as Ernie Els and Raymond Floyd.
And given how extraordinary McIlroy has played recently, the rest of the field certainly has their work cut out for them.
Hitting the greens from regulation and registering just four bogeys with one double-bogey in the four days it took for him to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy was unfazed when he was in trouble, and confident when he wasn’t. And that poise is something no other golfer seems to possess at the moment.
After having a not-so-successful 2013 season, McIlroy has promptly turned things around in 2014. Displaying utter determination and drive like no other – pun intended – he’s progressed immensely, rather than regressed, which, was somewhat expected of the 25-year-old.
While McIlroy’s competition will always be a lingering wall in preventing him from earning back-to-back majors, he seems to take it to a whole ‘nother level to where they can’t keep up. Putting himself in position to make birdies – eagles even – by showcasing precise accuracy, McIlroy’s refined his game to where all he knows is going up a stroke.
Now, as for the rest of the field, there’s still a chance – obviously. However, it’ll all boil down to who wants it, and who can keep their mojo going after making a mistake. Golf is a tough game to stay focused.
Believe me, I know. I know what it’s like to fire drives into the woods and spend hours looking for the ball, only to chunk it back into the fairway. I know. And even though professionals don’t necessarily make identical mistakes to what amateurs blunder, they still can simply execute errors.
Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, and, perhaps, Phil Mickelson, who shot an unbelievable round of 62-under-par on Sunday, could all heavily contest McIlroy. So, this isn’t a predetermined win for young McIlroy, but with the way he’s closing out matches, again, it’s awfully hard to not choose him as your projected winner.
A lot of players – as we saw with Garcia this past Sunday – have a difficult time finishing; handling the moment, if you will. And it’s because McIlroy has found his niche, that he’s been able to stack up the wins.
Remind you of someone?
Can McIlroy finally lose next Sunday? Certainly possible. But you won’t find me betting against him.