Opinion Corner: McIlroy making it happenFour PGA Tour victories in a season.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Four PGA Tour victories in a season.
Believe it or not — it isn’t Tiger Woods boasting that accomplishment this time.
Twenty-three-year-old Rory McIlroy established himself among golf’s elite on Sunday when he fended off a number of other major winners at the BMW Championship to secure his fourth victory of the 2012 season.
With the win, the Northern Irishman and world No. 1 set some impressive marks, becoming the first four-time winner on tour since Woods in 2005, the first to win back-to-back tournaments since Woods in 2009 and the first to win at least six times at or prior to age 23.
No single golfer has been up to the task of filling a very empty void at the top of the pro golf heap that was left by Woods after he fell off the proverbial map in 2009.
…until McIlroy came along, that is.
It used to be the kiss of death for another golfer to be paired up with the 14-time major winner. Call it fear of the greatest golfer since Jack Nicklaus or simply call it buckling under the pressure that comes from the largest gallery on tour during a Woods pairing.
What a world of difference from the 2011 Rory McIlroy to the 2012 version who is set to hoist his first-ever FedEx Cup trophy at the Tour Championship this weekend if he performs well.
Last year’s McIlroy, who infamously shot the worst round in history by any professional golfer leading after three rounds at the Masters, would have succumbed to such pressure.
Not the case in 2012, however. He’s played with confidence and a chip on his shoulder at the top of Sunday leaderboards despite Woods breathing down his neck. It’s a sort of quiet, strong arrogance that no player other than Woods has really possessed since Nicklaus so brilliantly did so in the 1970s and 80s.
The Sunday stage has been too big for a lot of young golfers, but it certainly hasn’t been this year for McIlroy.
It’s a breath of fresh air considering the fact that several golfers have shown us flashes of what seems to be a true rival for Woods to go up against in the past 10 years.
Vijay Singh’s nine tour victories in 2004 still has him with the highest single-season total earnings in PGA Tour history at nearly $11 million. The 49-year-old Fiji native has failed to follow up on his 2004 success, though, and has not boasted a major win since.
Phil Mickelson’s three major championships between 2004 and 2006 got us hoping he would make a run at Tiger. He’s been about as close as anybody, but just one major victory in the past six-and-a-half years has left us disappointed more times than satisfied.
Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera, Retief Goosen... I could go on for a while with a list of guys who have won the big one and then fizzled out since.
McIlroy is more than poised to rise above such a list.
That final round 80 at the 2011 Masters was the best thing that could have ever happened to him.
Since then, nothing has fazed him on his way to two major championships and the top ranking in the world.
McIlroy is my pick for bringing home the 2012 FedEx Cup trophy and I anticipate him doing so in true winning fashion on Sunday with a first-place finish to boot at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Willhide is a news writer with The Sun and a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner