Rory McIlroy overcame a resurgent Phil Mickelson Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship in a final round that weighed heavily on the wallets of those in contention.
The last major of the season comes with lofty financial implications each year outside of the standard glory and legacy building, which is something else McIlroy did in a big way Sunday. All of the men who were able to capitalize on the soft conditions brought their best for the lucrative top spot.
In the end, though, it was McIlroy who entered the day with a one-stroke advantage and left Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, with it all the same:
Below is a look at how the financial leaderboard played out at the top:
|1||Rory McIlroy||-16||$1.8 million|
|2||Phil Mickelson||-15||$1.08 million|
Full payout info can be found at Golfweek.com.
This time around, McIlroy had to overcome past demons associated with his clutch factor, or lack thereof in recent years.
The early lead quickly evaporated for the man who hails from Northern Ireland thanks to two bogeys on the front nine and great play from Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Mickelson. This time he responded, though, with an eagle on hole No. 10 and two birdies after to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.
Of course, not only is the triumph worth a cool $1.8 million, but also it places McIlroy with Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the youngest players to win their fourth major since 1934—even if he did seem to want to avoid such talk after the fact, as captured by PGA.com:
I try and put all this talk aside every time it comes up, but Tiger and Jack are two of the most successful players in our sport of all time. I'm on a nice track at the minute and I'm on a nice path. I've still got a long way to go, but to be in their company at this age is very special.
[...] I'm not sure I'll ever have another summer like this, so I've got a week off now and I'm going to enjoy it. I've got a lot of golf left to play this year, but I have to enjoy what I've just done.
Regardless, McIlroy cannot escape the fact he is in historic company and has won three straight with the 2015 Masters on approach.
For Mickelson, his performance late into Sunday evening was so much more than a paycheck worth $1.08 million. Remember, he entered the weekend having looked hapless at best all season. The second-place finish was by far his best, with no other performance on the year landing him in a top 10.
While it was the ninth time he placed as the runner up at a major, this one was different. Mickelson said as much after the fact, as his sponsor KPMG transcribed during the 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
For a 44-year-old, that is not so difficult to imagine after Sunday. He shot six birdies on the day, yes, but more impressive was his total 1.703 strokes gained putting average and his minimum average of two under on each type of hole—including 10 under par on par-five holes.
Stenson and Fowler cannot be too pleased with their tie for third place on a multitude of levels, especially on the financial side of things as both only receive $580,000 for their efforts.
The former dropped off late after five birdies on the front nine Sunday and recorded a birdie and bogey each on the back end with nothing but a ho-hum par showing on the last four holes. The Swedish star did notch his third top-10 finish of the year and posted a ridiculous 2.291 strokes gained putting average, but Stenson is left thinking about what could have been had he remained more consistent.
Fowler knows a thing or two about that. Just ask Golf Channel's Justin Ray:
Rickie Fowler: 1st player in modern era to finish top-5 in all 4 of season's majors without a win.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 11, 2014
Or Fowler himself, per the PGA Tour's Twitter account:
The No. 13 golfer in the world now has seven top-10 finishes and no wins to show for it. Four of those seven have come in consecutive outings. Fowler had finished strong every day in Louisville, with three birdies in four holes to close out Thursday and a birdie on the last hole Friday and Saturday, but he crumbled Sunday on the back nine with only a birdie and bogey on his scorecard.
If there is a saving grace for Fowler, it is that the event at Valhalla Golf Club ushered in a clear-cut new generation for the sport.
Granted, that generation is led by McIlroy, but Fowler and Stenson are not far behind. Plus, if Mickelson has anything to say about the matter, his legend will only continue to grow right along with them. It goes without saying that their future financial gains are significantly intertwined.
Statistics courtesy of the Golf Channel.