For Rory McIlroy, this week’s 103rd hosting of the PGA Championship will be only the third occasion in 49 majors that he will tee-up having won his prior event.
The first was in 2014 when McIlroy won three tournaments in succession – the Open Championship, the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational and a second PGA Championship victory trophy in near darkness at Valhalla.
A second was two years ago when McIlroy, in his first appearance, set a new course record to win the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, a week prior to the U.S. Open.
This week is only the third time with McIlroy returning to the windswept South Carolina island for a first occasion in nine years having captured last fortnight’s Wells Fargo Championship in neighbouring North Carolina. Also, for the first time in his four Major Championship winning career, McIlroy returns to the venue of one of those successes – the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
“I’ve watched a couple of videos over the last few weeks, just sort of trying to refamiliarise myself with Kiawah a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I chipped and putted so well that week. That’s the one thing I remember. I got it up and down a lot and my chipping and putting was really good.”
It had taken McIlroy 11 majors to win a first at the game’s highest level (2011 US Open), 17 majors to win a second (2012 PGA Championship), 24 to capture three (2014 Open Championship and 25 major appearances to win a fourth (2014 PGA Championship). He’s since competed in 23 majors with a best finish T2nd at the 2018 Open.
As well, could the number 13 in 2021 still prove to be Rory McIlroy’s lucky major championship number? This week will also be McIlroy’s 13th appearance in the PGA Championship a month or so following his 13th appearance in the Masters. Also, next month he will tee-up in a 13th US Open and then in July contest a 13th Open Championship.
“Hopefully history repeats itself,” said McIlroy in winning at Quail Hollow.
Aussie and fellow PGA Championship winner, Jason Day believes it could happen, saying: “Rory’s coming off a win and a long overdue win. He’s very confident right now, so he’s going to be very dangerous. The only thing I do remember from that 2012 PGA was Rory running away with it and killed it.
“I noticed at Quail Hollow he was hitting a lot of quality iron shots into the greens. Short game was off the charts and holing a lot of good putts. Kiawah Island is a pretty big course. He’ll need his distance and getting his short game is going to be crucial.”
Two-time Major winning Zach Johnson spoke in the same vein when asked his memories of McIlroy’s 2012 runway Kiawah win.
“My memory of that week is Rory dominating,” said Johnson. “Especially the last so many odd holes. I remember the par-3s being brutal.”
And fellow US Open winner, Bryson DeChambeau, who is looking to tackle one of the longest courses in major championship’s history, will now have a rejuvenated McIlroy also to handle.
“Rory’s got great chances at Kiawah,” said the World No. 4. “We all knew he was going to go back and win at some point. He was struggling, but his resolve is incredible and his ability to play the game is undeniably unbelievable, I would say Hall of Fame worthy as time goes on. If he continues to improve, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.”