• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The sun is rising on the reign of McIlroy as a fallen king is left in the shadows

There was a time when the television ordered you to go to bed.

The BBC's spinning globe would commandeer the screen, a whispering, sincere voiceover would essentially inform you that 'we're shutting down for the night and we suggest you do the same you bleary-eyed buffoon' and the national anthem would be played. Amid much yawning, groaning, muttering and creaking, you'd hoist yourself off the couch and shuffle away to your crypt.

These days, of course, the idiot box spews out sounds and pictures in such unrelenting abundance, you end up witlessly pawing away at the remote control into the wee sma' 'oors as you steadfastly defy the sleeping process by stumbling upon a channel devoted solely to the sale of cut-price, retractable awnings.

In this morass of nocturnal nonsense, though, there are rewards to be gained for ploughing on into the night. Those who stayed up to witness the last knockings of the PGA Championship at sodden Valhalla were blessed with a quite astonishing golfing blockbuster as Rory McIlroy claimed back-to-back major titles and his third straight win of a shimmering summer.

Given the devastating deluges that disrupted the championship, it turned out to be something of a muddy masterpiece and McIlroy displayed both guts and genius to surge back on the inward half and winkle out a one-shot win over Phil Mickelson.

The final major of the campaign is often, and somewhat unfairly, described as 'the other one' or the 'runt of the litter'. On Sunday night, it was very much the top dog. Far from the largely processional finishes to the Masters, the US Open and the Open during the course of 2014, the PGA Championship went down to the wire as finger nails were nibbled to the quick. This was what major championship golf is all about: the big players on the biggest stages going at it hammer and tongs right until the death.

Even in the tumult of a fraught title tussle as the sky darkened, courtesy shone through as Mickelson and Rickie Fowler allowed McIlroy's final group to play up on the 18th while the penultimate pairing were still on the green. It has its faults, but golf's decency and sportsmanship continues to set it apart from the rest.

In the gathering gloom of a dank Kentucky night, McIlroy continued to bring us to the dawn of this new Rory era for golf.

Predictions are, of course, a fool's errand and we can only wonder, admittedly with great excitement, at the heights to which McIlroy can soar. At just 25, and with four majors under his belt already, it would appear the sky is the limit. Throw in the gallant Fowler, the young, brightly-attired Californian whose major record this season reads, in chronological order, fifth, second, second and third, and the global game currently possesses the kind of figures that bring a fresh image, modern attitudes and an alluring approach to the way it is played at a time when golf as a whole is attempting to look forwards. In the wider sense, when the battle to increase participation at a junior level goes on, this Royal & Ancient game couldn't ask for two better players to help inspire and drive a flourishing future.

The sight of McIlroy heaving aloft the sizeable Wanamaker Trophy in jubilation was in stark contrast to the images of Tiger Woods hirpling and hobbling around Valhalla and agonising over every shot as he limped away from the event having missed the halfway cut. It was a fairly pitiful scene.

When will we see him again? Goodness knows. He's not in this week's Wyndham Championship and can't play in the FedEx Cup as he has not qualified. If Tom Watson gives him a wildcard for the Ryder Cup - and surely he can't - it would be the kind of reckless gamble usually reserved for doddering pheasants trying to cross a busy dual-carriageway.

Forget all the talk of reaching 18 majors. Merely getting his body fit again is Woods' biggest target. Already, the race to anoint McIlroy as the new king is under way and he is being tipped to surpass Jack Nicklaus' formidable major haul.

The new Tiger? Not quite. While Woods made it his life's mission to rip up the records, often with the kind of tight-lipped steeliness that would make a Dalek look positively effervescent, McIlroy, open, honest and engaging, continues to take it, well, one major step at a time.

"It's not something I ever thought about," said last month's Open champion in the build-up to the PGA Championship. "I'd like to win my fourth and that's it: just one after the other. And if it adds up to whatever number it adds up to in my career, then great. I don't want that burden of a number to try and attain."

Having knocked another victory off on Sunday night, McIlroy's modesty remained. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get here this quickly," he said in reference to claiming his fourth major at such a young age. Contrast that with the purposeful proclamations of Woods when he cantered to his fourth major title in the 2000 Open at St Andrews at the age of 24. "I thought I'd be at this point faster than it took," he said at the time.

The path to glory has been markedly different but McIlroy now has the same number of major victories as Woods did at a similar age. Who knows where this route will lead him?

The torch, it seems, has been passed. But then golf has always endured with new stars and bright, new eras down the years while the promise of a return, even fleetingly, of an ageing king remains a tantalising prospect. That is the beauty of this game. Let's enjoy McIlroy's majestic moments.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

254066