The 2012 PGA Championship, the other time a Tour event was held at the Ocean Course, had 156 players in the field. 155 of them would like to forget they were ever there.
Those who have not repressed that week remember an all-time beat-down at the hands of then 23-year-old Rory McIlroy by eight strokes. It was the largest margin of victory in PGA Championship history, and the largest in any major since… Rory McIlroy won the previous year’s U.S. Open by eight strokes.
With two major victories at a young age – both in dominant efforts, and two more just two years later at 25, most would have guessed that Rory would be closing in on double-digit majors by the time the 32-year old version of himself returned to Kiawah Island.
Back then, the young Northern Irishman was the natural heir to Tiger Woods with some even suggesting he could end up with more majors than both Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus himself said in an ESPN Radio interview ahead of the 2014 PGA that Rory could win “15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing.”
McIlroy, himself, added, “It’s inevitable that there’s going to be these comparisons. It’s hard to avoid.
“And, I’ve seen what Jack Nicklaus has said. It’s a compliment. It’s very flattering that Jack thinks so highly of my golf game.”
That idea ended in 2017 when McIlroy wrapped up his third full year without a major and his first without even a tour win. In fact, starting with that 2017 year, five seasons, McIlroy not only hasn’t won another major, he’s only produced six wins in total – with four coming in 2019.
He’s no longer that young icon with the limitless future, and McIlroy admitted as much yesterday at Tuesday’s press conference.
“A lot has changed. I’m in a completely different place in my life.” said McIlroy. “Yeah, everything has changed, really.
“Yeah, I feel like a completely different person.
“A lot has changed. I think a lot has changed for the better.
“I’m standing up here probably more confident in myself, happier with where I am in my life, and yeah, just sort of enjoying everything, enjoying life, enjoying everything a bit more.
“Yeah, it’s all good.”
While no longer compared to the GOATs: Jack and Tiger, the Northern Irishman is still an all-time historic player and a generational great.
And at 32 there could be plenty more to come.