Rory McIlroy: PGA Champion

Did you see it? It was one of the most polite, most gentle and most understated steamrollering golf has ever seen. Rory McIlroy steamrollered the field by the largest margin in PGA Championship history, 8 strokes. He steamrollered the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island’s revered claim to fame by shooting 6-under, 66.

But none of this was easy. As McIlroy picked his way around the course, even though conditions were basically benign, the Ocean Course is so difficult, you half expected disaster to strike at any moment. But his putter was so hot, he didn’t make one bogey on the day.

Was there a point early in this week where you felt like you could win here, and if so, when was that and why?  And then secondly, at what point did you feel that today?

Yeah, I turned up here on Monday.  I got here Monday afternoon.  I went up to my locker. My locker was right by the window overlooking the putting green and overlooking like the beach and the ocean.  I was thinking to myself, “I just have a good feeling about this week.”

And I said it to JP [his caddie] and I said it to my dad and I said it to my whole team; something about this just feels right.

It’s funny how things work out.  But yeah, I felt it from the start of the week, that it could be special.

Everyone knows Tiger’s Sunday tradition of wearing a red shirt. It didn’t help him on this Sunday; he could manage no better than Even par, two birdies and two bogeys. But it wasn’t lost on anyone that McIlroy wore red for the final round.

Was it your idea to wear the red shirt for the final round, and do you even think about the significance?

I did.  I thought if I was playing with him, I wouldn’t wear it.  Obviously him, you know who “him” is.

Yeah, it was in the [wardrobe] script that Oakley sent me at the start of the week.  If I was going to be paired with him today, I wasn’t going to wear red.  I remember what happened to Luke Donald in 2006 at Medinah.  I wasn’t playing with him and thought I would wear it.  Might have to do it from now on; no wonder he wins so much.  (Laughing).

Can you talk about the influence of Dave Stockton on your mental approach, and in what ways would you say you’re a better player than you were 14 months ago at Congressional?

Yeah, anywhere Dave’s done well, I seem to do well.  He’s won at Congressional and obviously The Ryder Cup captain here.  Anywhere he’s had success, I’ve had success, too, which has been pretty cool.

You know, we had a chat last week in Akron and he just said to me, “You know, just go out and play with a smile on your face.  Enjoy it.  This is what you’ve always wanted to do since you were a little boy.  There’s no point in getting frustrated out there or getting upset.  Just go out and enjoy it.”

That’s the attitude that I had for the last couple weeks, and it definitely helped.

Interestingly, that same approach was a big failure for Tiger:

I was right there, and I was telling Peter over there, that I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday.  And I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that’s not how I play.  I play intense and full systems go.  That cost me.

You said you changed your mental approach to enjoy a little more yesterday; why would you change, when you know how to get it done and you’ve done it so many times before?

I was just trying to be, you know, a little bit happy out there and enjoy it, and that’s unfortunately — that’s not how I play.  You know who I am.  I’m intense and I’m focused on what I’m doing and nothing else matters.  I got back to that today and I hit some really good shots and I played the way that I know I can play.

Where does that notion come from, to try to change?

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  It was a — it was a bad move on my part.

Where it comes from, if I may, is from the idea chase we all get struck with when we’re not swinging as well as we know we can. “What is it that’s missing? Why am I having trouble with this?”

Tiger knows that he has all the mechanics down; he’s enthralled with what he and Sean Foley are working on. “So if it’s not the mechanics, what could be holding me back?”

And as we go on these swing thought chases, we invariably come to a place where we know that we’re going down a blind alley. We intuitively know when a swing guess isn’t working, we shift to another guess and the first one drifts away. Tiger had a lapse in being faithful to what he knows works for him, tried being more carefree, and then dropped it like a hot potato. That’s called knowing yourself.

Englishman, David Lynn, finished by himself in 2nd. Never heard of him? Nobody else had either because he plays on the European Tour and had never played in the United States before:

I know you received an invite to this tournament.  Can you sort of take us through that process?  How long have you known you were going to be in this?

Well, I knew that the top 100 in the World Rankings qualifies, and I’ve missed out about four times by a couple of spots, and it was coming down to the D-day again, and I thought, I’m going to miss out here again by one or two spots.  And I chose not to play in Austria back home to try and sort of protect my ranking and managed to stay inside the top 100, and then the phone call came the Tuesday the week before, so I flew out on — I got the phone call on the Tuesday and then flew out on the Sunday.

He said that he’d basically taken four weeks off, the first two of which he never touched a club. Then he practiced for a week and the rest is history.

Finally there was a really nice cluster of players at T3 and 4-under:

  • Justin Rose shot the other 66 with an incredible eight birdies and two bogeys. It moved him up 22 spots on the day.
  • Keegan Bradley hung around all week and managed a very credible defense of his victory last year.
  • Ian Poulter burst out of the gate with six birdies in the first seven holes and eight all together. Unfortunately, he faded with four bogeys from 13 on in. But it was a good run that was taken seriously.
  • Carl Pettersson proved what it takes to have “a mind like a steel trap.” Hit with a two-stroke penalty after his club brushed a dead leaf on his backswing in a hazard, he snapped back with back-to-back birdies. The penalty was accurate but frivolous and cost him second place.

So all in all, “Glory’s Last Chance” was a great tournament, a very satisfying conclusion to the string of four majors.

And now the wait begins anew: eight months until the next one, the 2013 Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

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