Rory McIlroy has been in constant contention at stroke play events as of late, but before the 2014 BMW PGA Championship, he had failed to convert those opportunities into wins.
That changed Sunday in Surrey, England, when McIlroy finished 14 under par at the Wentworth Club to claim victory by one stroke over his closest challenger, Shane Lowry, as announced by Sky Sports News:
PGA Tour equipment writer Jonathan Wall weighed in on McIlroy's victory:
This marks the first professional win for the Northern Irish sensation since coming out on top in a duel last December with Adam Scott at the Australian Open. Although he hasn't won on the PGA Tour since his back-to-back wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship during the 2012 FedEx Cup playoffs, McIlroy beat out a spectacular field this week that featured 16 golfers in the top 50 of the world rankings.
McIlroy also had to weather the adversity of calling off his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Dealing with those circumstances and golfing the way he did shows how tough McIlroy can be.
Wentworth hasn't fit McIlroy's eye, as he'd missed the cut in his past two BMW PGA Championship starts. But something clicked this time around. McIlroy entered this event in fine form with four top 10s in as many starts and led the Players Championship field with 25 birdies.
However, he wasn't totally satisfied with taking home a hefty paycheck and not a trophy after a tie for sixth at TPC Sawgrass, as he implied via Twitter:
McIlroy displayed excellent tee-to-green prowess at Wentworth, with an improved short game and putting to complement it.
PGA Tour rankings of 123rd in strokes gained putting and 176th in scrambling show that McIlroy has been rather poor by his standards around the greens this season. Better numbers in those categories would almost guarantee more wins as long as his ball-striking holds up, and in Surrey, McIlroy was finally able to put it all together well enough over 72 holes, capping it off in the final round with a five-under 32 on the back nine to charge to the finish.
Although he hadn't been sealing the deal as of late, the end results in McIlroy's recent performances had been exceptional and hinted that something like this was on the horizon. It was a good sign he'd been hard on himself for "back-door" top 10s. All that was missing was a win, which McIlroy secured Sunday at a tournament that had historically been unkind to him.
It seemed only a matter of time before McIlroy would capitalize on one of his opportunities. So far, the wunderkind is living up to the hype in 2014 after a span of trials and tribulations last year.
The early stages of McIlroy's career have had several notable stretches of relatively poor play, but the game's premier young gun has shown an uncanny ability to weather adversity and follow it up with sensational golf.
McIlroy's maiden major breakthrough at the 2011 U.S. Open was the first indication of that knack. Instead of dwelling on the negativity of his Masters experience—where he blew a four-stroke, 54-hole lead—he proceeded to crush the field by eight shots at Congressional, with all four rounds in the 60s.
A switch to Nike sponsorship, an equipment change, a lax early-season schedule and new management had to be distracting for McIlroy in 2013. He figures to be a force to be reckoned with at the majors this season too, where he's said he wants to win two of the four.
"I won a major in 2011 and 2012 but not in 2013, so I'll try to make up for that with two this year," said McIlroy in January, per BBC Sport.
He fell short at Augusta National, but three more major opportunities await. Winning what is often referred to as the European Tour's flagship event is a great way to get back on track for that ambitious goal.
Perhaps McIlroy can sustain this momentum and re-emerge as world No. 1 before the year is finished. There is no question he has the talent to do so—consistency is the key to access his seemingly limitless potential.
That means not just holding steady for one season like he did in a magnificent 2012 campaign but rather sustaining that greatness. This win and his recent string of strong finishes show that McIlroy could indeed be on the cusp of further dominance. Not far away from the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 beginning on June 12, it's hard to argue against McIlroy being the favorite as he chases his third major title.
Statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.
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