Soft conditions Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship led to a shootout among several of the world's best golfers. With plush greens providing greater access to pin positions, players were throwing darts at Valhalla Golf Course—and coming away with some very low numbers.
These factors brought about a dramatic conclusion to the year's final major, and it was only fitting that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy emerged victorious with a round of 68 to finish the prestigious tournament at 16-under par.
With the dust now settled in Louisville, Kentucky, here's a look at the final leaderboard:
The 2014 season on the PGA Tour has been nothing short of remarkable. We've already seen the world's top ranking change hands several times, and each major tournament has been filled with a bevy of intriguing storylines. A one-stroke differential at the PGA Championship is a perfect conclusion.
While very few strokes separated the tournament's top players, there's quite a gap in the payouts for each. Here's a look at the prize money awarded to the best performers:
|1||Rory McIlroy||-16||$1.8 million|
|2||Phil Mickelson||-15||$1.08 million|
McIlroy was certainly deserving of the victory, recovering from a start that included two bogeys in his first six holes. Unshaken, he proved why he's the world's top player, following his second bogey up with a birdie at the par-five seventh to make the turn at one-over 36.
Continuing to build momentum, McIlroy eagled the par-five 10th after a beautiful approach, then birdied 13 and 17 to gain the outright lead. He moved on to record a two-putt par in total darkness on the 18th to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.
Speaking of the trophy, McIlroy's heroics continued even after his round was completed. Here's a look at the award ceremony, courtesy of Chris Breikss:
McIlroy's win marks his third consecutive victory and second straight major title. That kind of prowess on the golf course has further put him into some elite company.
ESPN Stats & Info and CBS Sports compared McIlroy to some of golf's legends:
Rory McIlroy joins Tiger Woods and Sam Snead as only players in Masters era to go from 3 major wins to 4 in the next major they played.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 11, 2014
He also set a new record of his own:
Rory McIlroy is 62-under par over the his 4 major victories. That is lowest cumulative score to par through a players 1st 4 major wins— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 11, 2014
Even McIlroy, himself, is shocked by his accomplishments, via ESPN Golf's Twitter account:
"I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age" with four major wins --@McIlroyRory— ESPN Golf (@ESPNGolf) August 11, 2014
While McIlroy is deserving of his praise, Phil Mickelson's performance shouldn't be overlooked.
Mickelson struggled a bit at the beginning of the 2014 season, but his showing at the PGA Championship may have been his most impressive this year. Four straight sub-70 rounds netted Lefty a score of 15 under at Valhalla, good enough for solo-second place.
SportsCenter noted just how many times Mickelson has now achieved that feat:
For the 9th time in Phil Mickelson's career, he finishes 2nd place at a major. pic.twitter.com/cM1DyMS1Wp— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 11, 2014
After shooting a 66 to finish out the tournament Sunday, Mickelson appeared very encouraged by his recent play. His sponsor KPMG tweeted his comments during a press conference:
"I feel like I'm a lot closer to great play than I've showed this year. This is just a glimpse of what I know I can do." - PM #PGAChamp— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) August 11, 2014
"I feel like if I'm able to stay healthy and sharpen the areas of my game, I should have 4-5 good years that I really want to focus on." -PM— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) August 11, 2014
Rickie Fowler continues to find himself well in the mix lately. He squared off against McIlroy in The Open Championship and continued that trend at Valhalla. Fowler was just one lipped-out putt away from finishing tied for second with Mickelson, and he settled for a tie for third with Henrik Stenson.
SportsCenter noted a new record Fowler earned upon the completion of the tournament:
Rickie Fowler becomes 1st player in The Masters Era (1934) to finish top-5 in all four majors and not win. pic.twitter.com/8rtg9X3K5D— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 11, 2014
While he has yet to notch a win in a major, he's playing well enough to speculate it won't be long until that drought comes to an end.