Man, what a treat for golf fans – players in a fierce grapple, right down to the last hole at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
I mean, will you ever forget where you were when Charley Hoffman edged Jonas Blixt for the final spot of the FedEx Cup play-off's top 70 players? Wow!
All right, all right. My requisite cheap shot joke at the super-contrived FedEx Cup standings is out of the way. Now we can start marinating in Rory-ness.
With a Sunday 67 and a one-stroke win over Louis Oosthuizen and two-stroke win over Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy didn't just essentially clinch US PGA Tour Player of the Year honours with his third win of the year and his second in three starts (don't forget, one of them was the US PGA Championship just last month.) He didn't just strengthen his grip on the world No. 1 ranking. What he really did was let Tiger – and, yes, Oosthuizen and the rest of the free golf world, but really, Tiger – know that this situation, established firmly at Kiawah's PGA, isn't changing anytime soon.
In a big-money tournament that saw Tiger shoot a Sunday 66 to stir visions of days of yore, choose your analogy for Rory's reply:
If this was an American football game, McIlroy would be the team that marched 80 yards in six plays for a touchdown, then immediately returned an interception for a touchdown on the opposition's next possession.
If this was a basketball game, McIlroy would be the player who just went coast-to-coast for a dunk, then stole the inbound pass for an uncontested lay-up.
If this were a baseball game, McIlroy would be the team that hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the inning, then struck out the side in the bottom.
Perhaps more vividly, imagine McIlroy's golf game as like a gargantuan moving van, beep-beeping as it backs its way into Tiger's neighbourhood, with McIlroy, in white slacks and an aquamarine golf shirt, waving it into the driveway of his mansion. As the workers unload expensive home furnishings and enormous flat-screen TVs, McIlroy waves to his neighbour Tiger, who is watering his lawn, looking envious. "Hiya, neighbour!" Rory might shout. "I'll be hosting a barbecue this fine Labour Day, toasting to my unbelievably good 23-year-old life. Come on over when you're done!"
(Of course, at that point, Tiger will email Rory the link to the story where Tiger just passed $100 million in career earnings, with the subject line: "SCOREBOARD," but work with me here.)
Whatever happened to McIlroy this summer is forgiven. All the expectations guys like me heaped on McIlroy – as in, win a bunch of Majors, Rory, and we don't want to hear any lame excuses – turned out to be a bit much. Sometimes, life has to play out.
And McIlroy admitted Monday after his win that he had "some things going on" in the summer when he played poorly, missed three cuts and generally took on all the sizzle of Facebook stock.
Now look at him: three wins to tie Tiger (a fact Rory noted) including a Major. And now look at guys like me, understanding that evaluating a player's "year" means to let an actual year take place. In fact, Rory himself sounded like he's just tucking his napkin into his collar, hungry for more, saying he'd like "four or five" wins before the FedEx Cup play-offs end in two weeks.
Also of note: McIlroy won a squeaker. This is not insignificant. His two Major championship wins were held in Blowout City, with no player inching within eight strokes. From those, we knew McIlroy had the "Tiger Gear," the extra dimension in which you slap the bumper sticker on your golf bag that reads: "HOW'S MY PLAYING? DIAL 1-800-EAT-DUST."
McIlroy's four US Tour wins had all been by at least two strokes, so to see him grapple with some adversity down the stretch – a chunked tee shot on No. 15 worthy of a 22-handicapper (he still made an excellent par), a missed fairway and green on No. 17 (he made a nifty up-and-down to save bogey), and the difficulty posed by an over-amped drive into the rough on the par-5 No. 18, nursing a one-stroke lead. McIlroy smartly laid up, hit a wedge and darn near ended with a birdie putt on the lip before settling for a smart par and a one-stroke win – his first such in the States.
And when asked after the win if he was watching Tiger's progress on the leader board, McIlroy had the answer for a new era in golf: "No, not at all."
So said Rory McIlroy – the Validation Sensation.