Sept 13 (Reuters) - A 2012 PGA Tour season that began like a
democracy with a diverse range of winners and several stunning
'come-from-behind' victories is poised to end as an autocracy
with world number one Rory McIlroy reigning supreme.
The mop-haired Northern Irishman will go into next week's
Tour Championship in Atlanta, the final event of the regular
season, in pursuit of his fifth title of the year on the U.S.
circuit, and his fourth in five starts.
Long regarded as heir apparent to Tiger Woods as the game's
greatest player, McIlroy has certainly fulfilled those lofty
expectations over the last few months while showing no signs of
He clinched his second major title by a staggering eight
shots at last month's PGA Championship before winning
back-to-back events in the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoffs - the
Deutsche Bank Championship and then the BMW Championship on
What made last week's triumph at Crooked Stick especially
impressive was that he sealed victory by two shots in a
star-studded field despite not playing his best golf in the
second and third rounds.
"The display of golf I put on out there from tee to green
was not very good," McIlroy said of a scrambling 69 which left
him one stroke off the lead going into the final round.
"I hung in there and made some putts on the back nine and
was able to get myself back in the tournament."
He later tweeted: "Somehow I turned a 76 into a 69 today!
Did some good work on the range this evening... Excited for
tomorrow to try and win my 2nd in a row!"
McIlroy duly delivered, closing with a five-under-par 67 to
beat Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson by two strokes and Woods by
The Northern Irishman's burgeoning ability to win
tournaments without producing his 'A' game all week is a rare
talent, and he is perhaps the first player to do so since Woods.
A 14-times major champion, Woods certainly sees something of
his former dominant self in McIlroy.
"Yeah, he's going out there and is up near the lead and
posts a good number," Woods said of the 23-year-old with whom he
has already developed mutual respect and a friendly rivalry.
"He's doing the things he needs to do, and he's feeling very
confident about his game. Right now he's just really playing
well, and he's making a ton of putts. That's a great combo."
Bald statistics illustrate how well McIlroy has played on
the 2012 PGA Tour, especially in the latter half of the season.
He has recorded nine top-10s in 15 starts and leads the money
list, with $7,842,192, and the scoring averages, with 69.62.
The Northern Irishman also tops the FedExCup standings
heading into East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the Tour
Championship finale where the overall playoff winner will pocket
a mind-boggling a $10 million bonus.
McIlroy's astonishing late surge has transformed a 2012 PGA
Tour season that initially illustrated with crystal clarity the
remarkable strength in depth in the modern game.
Twenty-seven of the 36 winners this season, not including
the weaker field tournaments held the same week as either the
World Golf Championships (WGC) events or the British Open, began
the year ranked in the world's top 50.
Established names such as Steve Stricker, Mickelson,
McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Woods each triumphed once
in the first three months of the season while the lesser known
Brandt Snedeker and Kyle Stanley set the tone for an amazing run
of come-from-behind wins.
In late January, Snedeker came from seven strokes behind to
win the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff with Stanley. One
week later, Stanley surged from eight shots back to triumph by
one at the Phoenix Open.
The 'democratic' trend on the PGA Tour also applied in the
biggest events as Bubba Watson (Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S.
Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) extended to 16 the streak of
different major winners.
"Golf is getting deep," Woods said of this trend while
preparing for the PGA Championship. "There are so many guys with
a chance to win. The margin is getting smaller.
"There may be 16 different winners but you look at the cuts,
the cuts are getting lower. If you just make the cut nowadays,
you're within nine shots of the lead sometimes. That's easily
do-able on a weekend."
Just five days after Woods made those remarks, McIlroy
shattered that 'margin' theory as he cruised to a record
eight-shot victory at the PGA Championship, his second major
title in seven starts.
For the time being, PGA Tour democracy has given way to
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by