CARMEL, Ind. – This ought to be getting scary for Rory McIlroy’s competition.
The kid, as Tiger Woods calls him, is beginning to make winning look easy.
He’s beginning to feel like winning is “normal,” almost inevitable.
While his overall body of work pales in comparison to Woods' monumental achievements, McIlroy is beginning to win the way Woods did.
With a 5-under-par 67 Sunday at the BMW Championship, McIlroy claimed back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff titles, becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour. With McIlroy's PGA Championship title in August, that’s three victories in his last four starts.
Sunday’s triumph puts McIlroy in a class with Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win six PGA Tour titles by 23.
“He’s pretty awesome, isn’t he?” Robert Garrigus said after making four consecutive birdies on the back nine Sunday and still failing to catch McIlroy. “You make putts like that, and hit it as straight as he does, and have a good short game, it’s kind of what Tiger was doing back in the day.
“Rory is everything you want in a golfer. I don’t know if he’s going to get to quite what Tiger did in his career, but he’s pretty darned close.”
With the victory, McIlroy pretty much locks up PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. Even if Woods wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, McIlroy’s major championship win should trump Woods.
McIlroy will head to East Lake in Atlanta for the playoffs’ finale as the FedEx Cup points leader in the re-set for the event. Woods will be second.
A terrific Sunday at Crooked Stick, with so many big names jammed at the top of the leaderboard, ended with McIlroy winning comfortably. Tied for the lead walking on to the 10th green, McIlroy took a three-shot lead to the 18th tee. He bogeyed the last hole and still beat Phil Mickelson (70) and Lee Westwood (69) by two and Woods (68) and Garrigus (69) by three.
McIlroy was asked if his run gives him an appreciation for what Woods did when he was dominating.
“I think I’ve always had an appreciation for what Tiger did over the years, winning seven, eight, nine times in a season,” McIlroy said. “It’s the more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win, and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal. It feels like what you’re supposed to do. I’m sure that’s how he felt when he was on that run and how he still feels.
“I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m getting to that stage, where I’m thinking this is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week.”
That’s the sentiment, the growing self belief, that ought to alarm McIlroy’s competition.
McIlroy is 40 under par in these last two playoff victories. He has posted eight consecutive rounds in the 60s.
His cumulative scoring average in his PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank and BMW victories is 67.5.
“The last four or five weeks have been incredible, some of the best golf that I’ve ever played,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy, 23, isn’t just winning now. He’s winning the biggest events. He’s beating the best and deepest fields. That’s a major and two playoff titles in this run.
Woods is noting McIlroy’s ability to close.
“He’s going out there and is up near the lead and posts a good number,” Woods said. “He’s doing the things he needs to do, and he’s feeling very confident about his game.”
In a year where PGA Tour pros have reminded us just how difficult it is to close with so many final-round collapses, McIlroy is becoming the game’s fiercest closer. Nobody looks more comfortable now on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win. McIlroy showed that after Westwood birdied the 13th hole Sunday to tie McIlroy for the lead.
McIlroy’s sharpening short game helped him seize back control.
At the 14th, McIlroy missed the green but got up and down to save par. Westwood couldn’t do the same.
“I thought that was the pivotal point,” McIlroy said.
That’s where McIlroy finished off Westwood and everyone else. He birdied the 15th and 16th to stretch his lead to three.
“I sort of picked up where I left off in Boston,” McIlroy said. “Just playing with a lot of confidence right now. I’m confident in my ability, confident with the shots I’m hitting and confident on the greens. It’s a nice run to be on, and I want to try to keep it going for as long as possible.”
There’s intrigue wondering just how long that might be.