Adam Scott came painfully close to winning last year's British Open before an epic Sunday meltdown.
Most golfers would rather be the worst player ever to win a major championship than to be given the title of “best player never to win a major.”
Sure, the BPNTWAM post was most famously held by Phil Mickelson, who was a 33-year-old with 22 PGA Tour wins, 46 major appearances and 17 top-10 finishes in majors before finally breaking through at the 2004 Masters. Lefty is now a four-time major champion, and his days as BPNTWAM are a distant memory from another era.
Call it the Snore by the Shore. Twenty-one years after the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island brought the world's greatest players to their knees at the 1991 Ryder Cup in the famed "War by the Shore," Rory McIlroy turned the tables on Pete Dye's seaside creation, subduing the Ocean Course and an elite field in winning his second major championship in two years. In posting 13-under and winning by eight strokes, McIlroy reprised his eight-shot win at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the first player in golf history to earn his first two major wins in such dominant fashion.
Glory's Last Shot was Rory's personal showcase, as he destroyed the recent trend of late collapses with a textbook display of major championship golf — fairways, greens and made putts, with a few successful scrambles thrown in.
There would be no Adam Scott-style meltdown, no Jim Furyk-esque collapse. No, the only guys doing the collapsing were the guys chasing Rory. Tiger Woods, after entering another weekend tied for the lead in a major, faded to a 74-72 finish and played the year's four majors without an under-par weekend round in any of them. After turning back the clock on Thursday and Friday, Vijay Singh realized he was 49 and eight years removed from his last major, ballooning to a 74-77 weekend.
In the process of reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Ranking, McIlroy added these distinctions to his ever-expanding resume:
• At 23 years, three months, McIlroy is the youngest player to win the PGA Championship.
• He's the second-youngest to win two majors. Jack Nicklaus was one month younger, when he won his second; Tiger was four months older.
• His eight-shot margin broke Nicklaus' record of seven set in 1980.
When you're erasing Jack Nicklaus from the record books at age 23, the future is looking pretty bright.
• Ian Poulter mounted the only real charge of the day, posting birdies on his first five holes. The onslaught didn't last, though, as the Ocean Course bit back on the inward 9 and Poulter limped in with bogeys on four of his last six holes. Poulter, one of the more savvy users of social media, immediately took to Twitter after his round to say: "Sorry guys I gave it my all but the tank was empty at the end. What a dream start I just couldn't hang on. @McIlroyRory congrats impressive."
• Perhaps Team USA used up all the positive American energy over in London. Keegan Bradley came in as low American in an otherwise dismal showing by U.S. players. The defending champion, Bradley finished tied for third at 4-under following a final-round 68.
• Carl Pettersson proved once again that golf's rules, while cherished and reverently observed by players, can be stupid and severe. Carl committed the apparently unforgivable sin of moving a leaf during a backswing on the first hole of his final round, costing himself two strokes. Fortunately for the integrity of the Wanamaker Trophy, Pettersson didn't finish two shots behind.
• A drama-free PGA was also dull in terms of U.S. Ryder Cup points movement, but a poor showing by the U.S. contingent had to sound the alarm on the American side. Only eight of the top 20 finishers were of American vintage. After dotting the leaderboards at the season's first three majors, the Americans are likely the underdogs once again as the Ryder Cup approaches.
• Next, Rory turns his attention to the U.S. Open — the tennis kind. Girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki will attempt to reclaim her share of the glory in sports' power couple of the moment.
Tiger Woods made headlines this week when he uttered the word "unplayable" in reference to some of the rough at Royal Lytham. So how tough is the course? An unusual amount of rain — even for England — has added extra thickness and gnarliness to the deep stuff, and when you throw in the penal pot bunkers, players will need an extra level of precision, particularly from the tee. Bottom line: As one writer described it, Royal Lytham is a beast, but a just beast, and will produce a worthy champion.
How will the marquee group perform?
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For the first two rounds, Tiger Woods (No. 4 in the world) will be playing with Justin Rose (No. 9) and Sergio Garcia (No. 23). Tiger has called the British Open his favorite major, and there's no doubt that he wants this tournament desperately, having gone more than four years without a major title. But Sergio is the wild card. His game has shown signs of life — he hasn't missed a cut in more than a year — and the British Open has historically been his best major (seven top 10s, including a second). Maybe the golf gods will finally smile on him. Doubtful, but possible.
Will Duval make the cut?
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The last time the Open Championship came to Royal Lytham & St Annes, David Duval won the first and last major championship of his career. For a guy who was once the No. 1 player in the world, that lone major title seems a long time ago. The winner of the 1999 Players Championship, Duval ascended to the No. 1 ranking, then two years later won the British Open at Royal Lytham. That happens to be the last of his 13 PGA Tour titles. Duval will be at Royal Lytham again, a perk of hoisting the Claret Jug. But will he even make the cut? This season alone, Duval has missed 10 cuts in 13 events; in Tiger Woods' entire career, Woods has missed nine. Signs for Duval aren't trending in the right direction.
Will an Englishman finally win?
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The last Englishman to kiss the Claret Jug: Nick Faldo, in 1992. Coming into this year's Open, two of the top three golfers in the World Golf Rankings will carry the banner of St. George's Cross, and they'll feel the considerable weight of their countrymen's expectations. World No. 1 Luke Donald will be feeling the most pressure; his lack of success in majors, particularly his nation's championship (he has one top 10 in 11 appearances and missed the cut last year), has fans questioning his major mettle. Lee Westwood, meanwhile, has many more close calls on his resume, but like Donald, he missed the cut at the Open in 2011.
Who'll kiss the jug on Sunday?
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It's tempting to pick a wild card, like Dustin Johnson, who was a wayward 4-iron from challenging for the win last year; Zach Johnson, the game's best putter right now; or Rickie Fowler, who has the talent and also has that elusive first win under his belt. Then there are the resurgent veterans, like Padraig Harrington; the perennial short-listers, like Phil Mickelson; and those seeking that career-defining win, like Westwood, Donald, Garcia, Steve Stricker, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. But we'll go with the bookmakers' choice and pick Tiger, who is taking a thoughtful, veteran approach this week and looks ready to return the major winner's circle.