The Grind: Valhalla answers our major prayers, Rory shows off, and the PGA's new nickname
By Alex Myers
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we're starting a petition for the PGA Championship to change its official slogan again. "Glory's last shot"? Cheesy. "This is major"? Dumb. "It's ALL happening now!"? YES. How else to describe the madness we saw on Sunday? From NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann helping to get the soggy course ready to play; to active and future golf Hall of Famers battling it out on the back nine; from a five-way tie for the lead at one point to a foursome finishing in darkness, the year's final major was an instant classic that had everything. We'll do our best to make sense of it all.
A wild finish included Rory McIlroy's ball barely staying dry on No. 18.
Rory McIlroy: In the span of a month, McIlroy went from a great talent to an all-time great. His win at the PGA gave him a second straight major and a fourth overall. But this one didn't come as easy as the others -- and that's a good thing. After a couple of early stumbles in the final round, McIlroy rallied from three shots down entering the back nine and showed he doesn't need a huge lead to close on Sunday. Four majors by 25? We don't think his optimistic dad would have even bet on that.
PGA Championship/Valhalla: Always No. 4 in stature, the PGA was once again No. 1 in delivering excitement ("It's all happening now!"). Thank you, PGA, we needed a dramatic Sunday at a major. And how about Valhalla? The course is batting 1.000 in three PGAs and it's now delivered all-time great winners in its last two. Is it the greatest course ever built? No, but we think it gets hurt by new-course bias. A future PGA hasn't been awarded to the Kentucky course yet, but we hope that changes.
Phil Mickelson: Talk about flipping the switch. After a PGA Tour season that included zero top-10 finishes in 17 starts, Mickelson shot a final-round 62 at the Bridgestone Invitational and kept going low at Valhalla. Unfortunately, not even a Sunday 66 was enough. Mickelson's last-gasp eagle chip on the 72nd hole just missed and he had to settle for a ninth major runner-up instead of a victory that would have easily trumped the 2013 British Open as Mickelson's most surprising win. Hmm. "Unpredicta-Phil" has a nice ring to it as well. . .
Rickie Fowler: How did this guy not win a major this year? Fowler led all players in aggregate scoring at the four events by five shots and his total was tied for the third-lowest ever. Despite the closest call of his career, Fowler offered nice words to McIlroy on Twitter after and McIlroy responded. Pretty cool.
Henrik Stenson: Sorry for all the birdies this week, but that tournament deserved it. Four players had a legit chance of winning all the way to the final hole, including Stenson, whose Sunday 66 could have easily been a 63. Alas, the 38-year-old Swede finished T-3 -- which dashed my chance for the "Alex Slam" in our office fantasy pool (sigh) -- and remains at the top of everyone's list of best players never to have won a major. At least of those candidates, he's the only one who has won a $10 million bonus.
Tiger Woods' back: He came. He saw. He crumbled. Again. Woods deserves credit for finishing his second round and actually hobbling to a back-nine 35, but once again, it was sad to see the 14-time major winner look so feeble. Who knows when the next chance will be for reporters/photographers to hang out by his tournament parking spot.
Michelle Wie's finger: The original "Big Wiesy" (sorry, Bernd Wiesberger) will miss three-to-five weeks with an injured finger. On the down side, Wie's breakthrough season is being cut into and she'll miss the LPGA's four major, the LPGA Championship, this week. On the bright side, this might explain her post U.S. Open swoon.
U.S. Ryder cup team injuries: How bad are things for Tom Watson's squad? He's still considering Tiger Woods for a captain's pick. Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner both withdrew from the PGA, which could limit Watson's options even more following the loss of Dustin Johnson to a leave of absence.
OMEGA's Rory commercial: We appreciate that the watch company was one of the PGA's main sponsors and that it probably spent a lot of money for the right, but couldn't it have made more than that ONE Rory McIroy/"Hall of Fame" commercial? Wait, OMEGA also sponsors the Ryder Cup? Please pick a new song.
The PGA Tour heads to Greensboro for the Wyndham Championship, aka that event that bridges the gap between "It's all happening now!" and "We're playing for $10 million!" This is the last chance for players to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It's also the last chance for guys to lock up their tour cards for next year by getting into the top 125 on the money list. No pressure.
Random tournament fact: Long before Patrick Reed declared himself a "top-five player in the world," he was purely a feel-good story when he -- with his wife as his caddie -- made this event his first PGA Tour win last year. Oh yeah, and he hit arguably the best shot of 2013.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Rory McIlroy will play the final hole as a foursome in his next major victory: 1 million-to-1 odds
-- Rory McIlroy will win next year's Masters: 5-to-1 odds (actual odds) (That's it?! Is that supposed to be 1-5?)
-- The Wyndham Championship will NOT be as exciting as the PGA Championship: LOCK
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"The ball flight was probably around 30 feet lower than I intended. And the line of the shot was probably around 15 yards left of where I intended. It was lucky, it really was. You need a little bit of luck in major championships to win, and that was my lucky break." -- Rory McIlroy on his final-round 3-wood on No. 10 to seven feet that set up an eagle. Rory "LuckIlroy"? OK, we need to stop with these nicknames. We're fried. Blame that OMEGA commercial.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Rickie Fowler added some levity to the bizarre scene of Tiger Woods showing up at Valhalla's parking lot on Wednesday:
SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK
Yours truly just had to snap a shot of Henrik Stenson thanking the golf gods after his approach shot to No. 13 on Sunday managed to stay dry:
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
About the only thing that hasn't gone right for Rory this summer are his trophy ceremonies at the last two majors.
THIS WEEK IN PRO GOLFERS AND THEIR WAGS PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Meet Pablo Larrazabal's girlfriend, Gala Alten:
If you remember, Larrazabal was the guy who was attacked by a swarm of hornets on the course earlier in the year. He seems to enjoy being visited by his girlfriend a lot more. . .
THIS WEEK IN LINDSEY VONN MAKING US LOOK BAD WITH HER TRAINING
You feel lazy right now, don't you?
THIS AND THAT
The PGA Tour announced their will be an event in Alabama next year opposite the British Open. Now Steve Stricker has another option to play that week! . . . TV ratings on Sunday were up 36 percent from 2013's final round. Glad to see people were paying attention. . . . Mirim Lee picked up her first LPGA Tour win. Sorry, Mirim, but you kind of got lost in the shuffle. . . . Rory McIlroy tweeted this photo of himself with his recent loot (Not pictured is the $5 million he's won in three starts) shortly after winning the PGA. Show off.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Does Rory take the claret jug with him everywhere?
What did Phil really think about the PGA's 72nd hole?
How much Jagermeister can fit in the Wanamaker Trophy?