The player dominating the field at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on Sunday was wearing his Sunday red, a benchmark for many golf fans over the past decade and a half. However, this golfer hailed from the hills of Northern Ireland rather than the familiar face from Orange County.
Rory McIlroy owned the course this weekend.
At the ripe age of 23, McIlroy surged through the weekend on his way to winning the second major championship of his career by a PGA Championship best eight strokes, breaking Jack Nicklaus' record that had stood since 1980. His only hiccup, a three-over 75 on Friday, was quickly erased by a strong performance over the weekend, including a storm-delayed third round that finished early Sunday morning.
McIlroy, who became the youngest player to win a PGA Championship since 1958, finished at -13 (67, 75, 67, 66), eight strokes ahead of Englishman David Lynn and eleven strokes better than Tiger Woods, who held a share of the lead after 36 holes, but another weekend in which he failed to break par turned out to be his Achilles' Heel.
The defining shot for McIlroy came on the third hole on Saturday when his ball landed in a tree off of the fairway. After a small search party located the ball, McIlroy took a drop, slapped a wedge within mere feet of the hole and saved par. The Irishman never looked back.
It all seemed to be working for him at Kiawah Island. The swing was fluid, the ball was sailing, and putts were dropping. McIlroy collected thirteen birdies combined in the final two rounds, more than any other golfer in the tournament besides Justin Rose (-4), who also sank 13.
So how soon should we be expecting McIlroy's face on the cover of EA Sports' latest video game? The Tiger Woods PGA Tour series has been, by far, the most popular golfing game to date, but with Rory McIlroy continuing to impress the international audience, how far off is he from his own slew of endorsement deals?
McIlroy beat Tiger's pace to his second major championship by four months, and he did it in one less start. What is even more impressive is that while McIlroy returned to the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings, he did it after missing four of five cuts earlier this year, including the U.S. Open, which he was defending.
Criticized by the media that his private life was distracting him from his golf game, McIlroy proved critics wrong on the course and responded afterwards saying, "To be honest, it did motivate me. I did want to go out there and prove a few people wrong. I don't think I could have answered it in any better way.", via BBC Sport.
McIlroy dominated the playing field much like Tiger was doing in the early 2000s. Rory built a lead, and once that advantage became too much of a burden for other golfers to dismantle, they simply settled for second.
In an article by Joel Waldfogel of Slate.com, he speaks on the "Tiger Woods Effect", a term coined by Jennifer Brown, an applied macroeconomist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Essentially, when their is incentive to win something, either an Employee of the Month award at work or the top money prize in a golf major, individuals are expected to put forth their best effort in order to claim that prize. But when a dominating force is in the field of play for said prize, for example Tiger Woods, and is expected to win, other competitors simply settle for second.
The winning purse amount in a major tournament is generally much higher for that of the first place finisher than the subsequent positions, approximately $1.5 million for a first place finish compared to a $800,000 for a second place finish. While still a pretty penny, golfers ordain a self-fulfilling prophecy that because golfer A will win, I will lose.
All this being said, Rory McIlroy has the potential to have this effect on the professional golf world as he continues to mature. Even Tiger seemed to be in his own head while chasing McIlroy through the heat of the South Carolinian course, "I was right there, and I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday. 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.", via ESPN.com.
McIlroy has a gift, a sweet stroke and a winning attitude, and being 13 years Tiger's junior, he has plenty of time to exert his dominance on the European and PGA Tours. If he continues to hone his abilities, 19 major championships isn't out of the question.