The Open Championship has the history and the Masters has the lore, but the PGA Championship this weekend was nothing short of spectacular.
“This is going to go down as one of – I don’t want to say the greatest major championships ever – but it was pretty darn good,” Golf Channel analyst Jimmy Roberts said on The Morning Show. “It’s about as good as it gets.”
Just about every golfer and his mother was in contention heading into the final round, there was a weather delay, and the biggest names in golf battled to the beautiful end Sunday night, with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk finishing in the top five.
“I’ll bet that these ratings are gigantic,” Roberts said. “Not only because it went until, what, 8:45 until it was decided, but look at who was involved: Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy. You had all these big names. And I think something that shouldn’t be lost in this is how compelling and how exciting (this was) – and it didn’t involve Tiger Woods.”
Indeed, Woods failed to make the cut, and in the end, McIlroy won his second straight major and third straight tournament. He shot a 66-67-67-68 to finish with a 16-under 268, barely edging out Mickelson (269) and Fowler (270).
McIlroy joined Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones as the only golfers in the last century to win four majors before the age of 26.
So, has McIlroy done enough to draw in fringe fans just as Woods did?
“I’m not so sure about that,” Roberts said. “I think Tiger is a once-in-a-lifetime – maybe even more than that – phenomenon, and Rory’s still got a long way to go before he gets anywhere near what Tiger has already accomplished. But I don’t know if he’s that transcendent star. I do know that he’s very, very appealing and he’s genuine. At the risk of making myself sound old, he’s a really, really nice young man, and he is frighteningly talented.”
“But when Tiger was doing what Tiger was doing, I think we were looking at something we had never seen before in many ways – not the least of which was talent. So I don’t know. I think the jury is still going to be out on that for a while.”
But how does McIlroy today measure up with Woods in his prime? Brandon Tierney sees in McIlroy someone who can drive just as long as Woods and who is a little straighter off the tee, but also someone who isn’t as creative around the green and isn’t quite as solid with his putter.
“I think you pretty much put your finger on it,” Roberts said. “Rory’s very long. I think he’s really pretty spectacular with his iron play. He comes up with the big shot when he needs to – but that’s what championship players do.”
But he’s not on par with Woods – no pun intended – mainly because Woods’ short game was better. Then again, Woods’ short game might be the best we’ve ever seen.
“Tiger Woods was extraordinary in so many ways when he was playing the way he was playing, but it wasn’t because he shot 63 more than anybody else; it was because he shot 78 fewer times than anybody else,” Roberts said. “He made more 10- (and) 12-foot putts for par than anybody I have ever seen.”
Legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins, who was friends with Ben Hogan and has covered or followed every major golfer in the last half century, once said Woods is the greatest putter he’s ever seen.
“Woods had an extraordinary short game,” Roberts said, “and putting was the star player there.”