Renowned golf commentator Jim Nantz famously proclaimed Rory McIlroy the "new ruler in the game of golf" when he won the 2012 PGA Championship by a record eight strokes. That's a label McIlroy hasn't lived up to for much of the past two years, but now the sport's most promising young superstar appears destined to reestablish himself as the next all-time great.
McIlroy captured his second Wanamaker Trophy in three years, winning a second consecutive major title at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday. The Northern Irish sensation shot a 3-under 68 for a total of 16 under par for the tournament, good for a 1-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson.
ESPN's Sportcenter Twitter account had the news:
Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship! pic.twitter.com/VuOITl54Jr— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 11, 2014
McIlroy reflected on his summer and gave major props to fellow tour mate Rickie Fowler:
@RickieFowlerPGA your day is coming... And very soon! Great fight out there, let's hope for many more battles in the future!— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) August 11, 2014
PGA Tour Media pointed out before the week began the rarefied air McIlroy would enter by securing another landmark triumph at Valhalla:
.@McIlroyRory research: 4 players have won 3 straight TOUR starts since 1980: Woods (5 times), Watson (1980), Duval, (1997) Singh (2004).— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) August 4, 2014
ESPN Stats & Info provided further context:
Rory McIlroy could become 3rd golfer in Masters Era (since 1934) with 4 Majors by age 25 (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus) pic.twitter.com/1lfFcikfeO— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 5, 2014
The tournament's official Twitter account recorded what McIlroy had to say before the event about stepping up as the game's next surefire superstar:
"Golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and become one of the dominant players in the game.” - @McIlroyRory— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 5, 2014
What is Rory McIlroy's ceiling in terms of golf's all-time greats?
Few can claim to have ever driven the ball quite like McIlroy has in his past three starts. Despite a slighter frame, McIlroy is booming it well over 300 yards with regularity and ease, often finding the fairway when doing so.
That creates a prohibitive advantage, since McIlroy has shorter approach shots. At the PGA Championship in particular, distance and a high ball flight are rewarded. All McIlroy had to do was hole enough putts to secure his fourth major title, and that's precisely what he did.
As deep as fields are in modern golf, McIlroy has been a cut above the rest when he's totally clicking. With four majors under his belt now, there is all the reason to believe McIlroy will win the FedEx Cup and carry that momentum over to what should be an exciting Ryder Cup in September.
Most of the hype, though, will focus on McIlroy's effort to win a third straight major and cap off the career Grand Slam at the 2015 Masters. If he pulls off that feat, McIlroy will be a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame if he wasn't already, and truly cement his status among the all-time greats already.