Then there was Sunday. The last round of the PGA Championship reminded everyone about what Sunday at a major is all about.
Not only was action thrilling, and the finish on 18 truly bizarre, the afternoon rain delay pushed the climax into primetime on CBS. It should result in a nice rating for the network when it comes out later today.
More importantly, it got everyone talking about golf again. The final round will serve as a transition of sorts, with the new era, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, battling the old era, 44-year-old Phil Mickelson. The veteran nearly pulled it out, but ultimately the day belonged to the new face of golf.
With his second straight major in the bag and fourth overall, McIlroy is showing he is the kind of player who can get non golf fans to tune in when his name is on the leaderboard.
McIlroy isn’t just collecting trophies; he’s making golf relevant again. Or he should be.
He wins big. He wins small. He wins here. He wins over there. He wins sublimely. He wins boringly. But he wins. And if Woods and Nicklaus have proved anything over the years, winning matters.
“It’s beginning to look a little Tiger-esque, I suppose,” said fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell. “I said to [reporters] at the Open, I didn’t think we were going to see the new Tiger era, as in someone creating their own kind of Tiger-esque era just yet. I guess you could say — I’m not eating my words, but I’m certainly starting to chew on them right now.”
Chew on these numbers: McIlroy has won four majors before his 26th birthday.
“So it’s a case of how the guy continues to motivate himself,” said McDowell. “You don’t know what the number is. It’s however many he wants, you know. He’ll win as many majors as he wants — within reason.”
From a media perspective, McIlroy definitely will be a much more likable face of golf than Woods. He is much more accessible and candid than the former No. 1, who rarely makes him available beyond the required press conferences.
There is a humility to McIlroy, an accessibility. He has committed his share of off-course sins, but immediately owned them.
Indeed, the only problem with yesterday was the deadly slow play on the front 9. It was interesting to note how fast the players moved on the back 9 in a bid to finish before the light completely disappeared. Perhaps, if they played with that mindset all the time, the game would be more enjoyable to watch.
But that’s a minor quibble about Sunday.
After McIlroy won the British Open, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover, looking ahead to next year’s Masters. Hey, what about the PGA?
SI was premature then, but not anymore. Not after Sunday. The countdown has begun: 242 days until Augusta.
It also is a long enough time for Woods to get healthy and regain his game. CBS can only dream of the ratings possibilities of McIlroy-Woods showdown in Augusta.