Eighteen holes separate Rory McIlroy from his fourth major title and second of 2014.
Golf isn't immune from the kind of hot takes penned by sports writers who are already labeling McIlroy the next Tiger Woods and predicting he'll beat Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. If McIlroy wins at the Valhalla Golf Club, they'll only be more emboldened.
Through three rounds, the Northern Irish star holds a one-stroke lead over Bernd Wiesberger. Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson sit third and fourth, respectively.
Each of the three major winners from this year have held the lead after 54 holes, so that bodes well for the 25-year-old, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Rory McIlroy has the lead entering the final round of the #PGAChampionship. 2014 Major champs all had at least a share of the 54-hole lead— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 9, 2014
McIlroy found himself in some trouble spots on the back nine but somehow recovered to avoid a costly bogey. That's a sign of both his strong composure and great technique. Lisa Cornwell of Golf Channel was particularly impressed with his peerless swing:
Rory McIlroy's rotation, with that swing speed, is enviable right now... Wow.— Lisa Cornwell (@LisaCornwellGC) August 9, 2014
Many would agree that another McIlroy win would be fun to watch and create a lot of intrigue for the 2015 PGA Tour season.
Despite having a deep pool of talent, golf needs at least one golfer to distance himself from the pack and become the guy to define an era, much as Tiger Woods was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe Rory can be the person to do that.
Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman sees a couple of other ways in which the PGA Championship could end that would give fans something to talk about in the following days:
A Rory win would solidify a new era. A Rickie win would light a fire. A Phil win would ignite an inferno. How good is this PGA?!— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) August 9, 2014
Mickelson is one of the biggest stars in the sport. A triumph at Valhalla would be particularly thrilling considering Lefty has done next to nothing on the PGA Tour this year. He's without a single top-10 finish in 2014.
This would be one of the more improbable wins of his career if he can have a strong final round and supplant McIlroy.
At the other end of the spectrum, Fowler has been one of the most consistent golfers on the PGA Tour this year, finishing in the top five of the previous three majors this year. Sunday could be the breakthrough he needs to start being talked about in the same discussion as McIlroy.
At the very least, he could become the third golfer to finish in the top five at all four major tournaments in the same season, per Golf Channel's Ryan Burr:
Rickie Fowler finished in top-5 in each of the season’s 1st 3 majors only 2 players have done it in all 4 majors in a season Tiger & jack— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) August 9, 2014
Beau Bishop of WBNS in Columbus, Ohio, wonders if Fowler should shave his mustache in preparation for a possible win, which is a good point. Is that something he'll love to see in 20 years when he looks back on his first major championship win?
If Rickie Fowler wins this thing he will regret that absurd mustache.— BEAU BISHOP (@BeauBishop) August 9, 2014
We all make fashion mistakes when we're 25.
You can't forget about Wiesberger, either. CBSSports.com's Kyle Wagner thinks having the 28-year-old contending for the title only adds to the drama:
Bernd freaking Wiesberger is leading the PGA Championship. THIS PGA Championship.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 9, 2014
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Wiesberger has made the cut at only two major tournaments. Now he's on the precipice of a title:
Bernd Wiesberger is tied with Rory McIlroy for the lead at the #PGAChampionship. In 5 previous Majors, Wiesberger made the cut just once.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 9, 2014
Most fans should be rooting for him Sunday. Imagine the puns that headline writers across America could come up with for Sunday night and the Monday morning papers:
The last time I had Bernd Wiesberger, I sent it back to the kitchen.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 9, 2014
Bernd Klaus Wiesberger is your clubhouse leader. If he wins tomorrow, you'll soon find a Wiesberger on every menu in Louisville.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 9, 2014
Who doesn't love sitting on the porch and eating a nice "Wiesberger" on a hot summer day?
The PGA Championship is shaping up to be a fitting conclusion to the 2014 major season. Watching one guy run away with the tournament can be fun for a little bit, but that becomes boring after a while. The final round should be a head-to-head or possibly head-to-head-to-head-to-head battle that goes right down the wire.
With so many golfers within a few strokes of one another, the tournament shouldn't be lacking in theater. No matter how it ends, golf fans everywhere win.