Rory McIlroy didn’t win the BMW PGA Championship which concluded at Wentworth yesterday, a pleasure which belonged to Danny Willett. While that represented some measure of disappointment for the Irishman on his return to compete in Great Britain for only the second time in 2019, there had already been consolation in America earlier this month when he was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
More on that in a moment. At Wentworth, McIlroy opened with a 76 and needed a three-under-par round of 69 to make the cut on the mark on Friday. Having managed that, he fired a 65 on Saturday – “Typical me,” he said. “I played way better than I did over the first two days” – while on Sunday he birdied five of the last eight holes (on Thursday he’d come home in 42) for a 67 and a tie for ninth. Give him a mulligan for his opener and he might have won.
It was something of a shock that McIlroy rather than Brooks Koepka was voted Player of the Year by the golfers of the PGA Tour. Koepka is the world No. 1, McIlroy is second. Another quick reminder: Koepka has won four major championships in the past 27 months. McIlroy, who also has four to his name, hasn’t won one for over five years.
On the one hand, Rory has won three times in 2019, including the Players Championship and the Tour Championship, and had 14 top-10 finishes from 19 starts on the PGA Tour. Impressive! On the other, Brooks has won twice but one of those was a major, the USPGA Championship. He also became only the fourth man ever to finish in the top-4 in all four majors. (Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, since you asked.) Historic!
Hey, perhaps McIlroy got the nod because Koepka isn’t very popular with his fellow players? Whatever, for sure the Tour would have loved the implicit kudos given to its two flagship events in this vote by its members (remember: the PGA Tour doesn’t run any of the majors), but whichever way you look at it, McIlroy has picked up this particular honour for the third time.
This past season McIlroy failed to have a top-five finish in any major, only the second time that had happened to him in 11 years. His most noteworthy performance was a bad one, missing the cut in the Open at Royall Portrush. But in the aftermath of his Tour Championship victory, when he had said he expected Koepka to be named Player of the Year, McIlroy made one very valid point on this subject. “If the narrative becomes that the majors are the only important thing in golf,” he said, “then that’s dangerous, because are fans not going to care for the other 48 weeks a year?”
Fair point, but there is this. I suspect that if he could (hypothetically) be offered the opportunity then I think McIlroy would have traded his season for Koepka’s. But perhaps he wouldn’t. On the other hand, would he swap his year for that of Tiger Woods? In a heartbeat. That would have come with the Masters green jacket, and therefore the career Grand Slam, which he so sorely craves. Maybe next April?
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com