Rory McIlroy deserves every bit of praise he's receiving for his 2014 British Open win, but he's not the only golfer who elevated himself at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Momentum generated from major tournaments can be an invaluable asset. Sure, it's great to have strong finishes throughout the year, but when a golfer finds himself in or near the top 10 of the British Open, the U.S. Open, the Masters or the PGA Championship, it must be an entirely different feeling.
The three golfers below were either hoping to spark a turnaround at the British Open or looking for a nudge up the golfing pyramid. And they received what they were looking for at Hoylake.
If there was an award for the most consistent major-tournament golfer, then Rickie Fowler would be a shoo-in this year. With his second-place finish at the British Open, he's now been in the top five in each of the three majors in 2014.
Nobody's done that since Tiger Woods in 2000, per Golf Channel's Ryan Burr:
Rickie Fowler is the first player to finish top 5 in each of the season’s first three majors since Tiger Woods in 2005.— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) July 20, 2014
According to Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com, Fowler has been the best golfer of the major season in terms of total score. In his 12 rounds, he's posted a combined score of 16-under.
"That's pretty monstrous considering the courses these things have been played on," Porter wrote.
Fowler has shown this year that he's no longer an emerging star simply hoping to have a good showing. He's a threat to win almost anywhere now.
He spoke about that change in perception, per Golf.com's Coleman McDowell:
Right now I'm definitely able to come in the majors believing in myself and believing in my game. And that gives me so much confidence knowing that I'm working, I believe, with the best coach there is in golf. And to see the amount of work we've put in to prepare to be in positions at majors this year and to see it actually pay off, it just keeps building confidence for myself. So this year, with how comfortable I felt in the majors, it's not even close to the past few years. It's kind of hard to explain. It doesn't feel like a big stage. It feels like I'm supposed to be here.
Heading into the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, Fowler has to be considered one of the favorites.
Entering Royal Liverpool, Charl Schwartzel had been having a tough time at major tournaments. At the 2013 PGA Championship and then the 2014 Masters and U.S. Open, he failed to make the cut.
Don't forget that this is a guy who won the 2011 Masters and then finished in a tie for ninth at the U.S. Open. He's not somebody who's happy to merely be playing through the weekend.
Schwartzel walked into the British Open with few expectations but walked out with a tie for seventh place.
The South African is only 29 years old, so it's not like he's completely washed up and his performance at Hoylake will be his last hurrah. He might have been questioning his ability during his recent stretch of missed cuts, so the British Open could've been the kind of confidence builder he needs to push forward and become a top threat again.
Only 24 years old, Victor Dubuisson has made the cut at exactly two major tournaments in his career—the 2014 U.S. Open and British Open.
He was a bit of a wild card at Hoylake and ended up playing very well, tying for ninth place at 10 under.
You wouldn't characterize the Frenchman's rise as meteoric, but think about where he was two years ago or even one. Only the golfing die-hards even knew his name.
Now, he's got a top-10 finish under his belt and looks primed for more.
Golfweek.com's Jim McCabe sang Dubuisson's praises after the third round of the British Open:
But for intrigue, few on the world stage catch your attention quite like Dubuisson – partly because people know so little about him, partly because he is exceptional at maintaining a level of anonymity, and partly because if you take the time to study him on the golf course you realize he has got a ton of game and an aggressive mentality that produces excitement.
His short game, so magical and so breathless as he marched into the WGC-Match Play Championship final where he lost to Jason Day, is still something that keeps swing coach Benoit Ducoulombier shaking his head. “He hits great shots, great escapes. I don’t know how he does it,” Ducoulombier said after Dubuisson birded Royal Liverpool’s par-5 18th.
Who knows? Maybe Dubuisson will continue improving and become one of the top golfers in the world. At the very least, his British Open showing proved he's more than just an anonymous golfer.