Five things we learned at Kiawah Island

Rory McIlroy’s got his mojo back

After some major mis-steps in the middle of this season, some disappointing performances at the majors in 2012 and even some questioning of his commitment, Glory’s Last Shot has revealed a new, improved and more mature McIlroy.

There was no need to shoot the lights out here, and more importantly neither was there the inclination. Nor did the wind and the rain knock the previously susceptible McIlroy out of his stride as he conquered the worst of the weather. The talent never went away but this week marked a returning to the imperious form in which conquered Congressional to win his first major at the 2010 US Open, the Holywood star kept his body language positive, putted superbly and stayed cool and calm under pressure as others floundered to progress through 72 holes in a serene manner.

Time is running out in Tiger Woods’ quest for 18 majors

Another year passes without a major for Tiger Woods and for a man who spoke this week of his frustration at not winning one since the 2008 US Open, that is going to hurt more than that knee of his did at Torrey Pines. Woods said this week he was using Jack Nicklaus’s 1986 Masters success at the age of 46 as a yardstick to realise his ambition of at least matching the Golden Bear’s record of 18. That gives him 10 years to win four more but with fields getting deeper and Woods no longer the awe-inducing figure on the tee he once was, that is no gimme. Even more worryingly for Tiger and despite the fact he is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, it is a very long time since he has been unable to make his presence felt in any serious way on the back nine of a final round in major.

What is it about the PGA and strange rulings?

Remember Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits and that bunker he didn’t realise was in a bunker? The final major of the year has once again been messing with several players’ sanity. First there was Michael Hoey, who forgot to replace sand over his ball having removed it to identify it in a hazard. Then Joost Luiten came a cropper at the end of his third with a one-stroke penalty for double-striking a one-handed tap-in. And then there was poor Carl Petterson, whose title bid was undone by the two-stroke penalty he incurred on the first hole of his final round when he moved a loose impediment lying in a hazard with his backswing. It needed a super slo-mo to detect but rules are rules.

It’s going to be a cracking Ryder Cup

If Kiawah has signalled anything it is that with less than seven weeks to go until the latest round of matches gets under way at Medinah in Chicago, the biennial trial of nerve and substance is as finely balanced as its ever been. After a quiet year in the majors, the Europeans bounced back in force at the PGA and all of a sudden those wins by their American rivals Bubba Watson at the Masters and Webb Simpson in the US Open don’t seem as fresh in the memory. With qualification for Jose Maria Olazabal’s team really hotting up to defend the title thrillingly won at Celtic Manor two years ago, the Europeans really stepped up to the plate at Kiawah Island.

Is Pádraig Harrington worth a Ryder Cup wild card?

European captain Jose Maria Olazabal was distinctly cool on the prospect of using one of his two picks on Harrington, leaving the Irishman needing a win or runner-up finish to qualify automatically. Instead, Ian Poulter’s blistering final round at Kiawah not only boosted Olazabal’s team by making the Englishman and Ryder Cup stud an automatic selection, it gave Harrington an outside chance of changing the skipper’s mind. His form in recent Ryder Cups isn’t the best but with another strong showing in a major, Harrington has proved he is once again a man for the big occasion. Yet there are still doubts about the three-time major-winner’s putting and it will only have taken a couple of missed putts to have confirmed Olazabal’s doubts.


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