During the tough times in 2013 some pundits wondered if Rory McIlroy would ever get back to his best
Equipment changes, relationship issues and management complications all seemed to weigh heavily on Rory’s shoulders, sapping his appetite for the game.
In recent weeks, the 25-year-old has looked like a man on a mission, determined to make up for lost time and his victory at Valhalla proved once and for all that he is perfectly placed to dominate the game.
That has of course been said before, but there’s something a bit different about Rory this time around.
European captain Paul McGinley summed it up on Saturday evening after Rory carded a third round 67 to remain in the lead at the US PGA Championship.
“We all know how great a golfer he is but what we are really seeing is a steely edge coming to his competitiveness,” said McGinley.
“That’s what Tiger had and that’s what made Tiger so incredibly good.
“If you put Rory’s game and add that extra flavour of steeliness that is starting to emerge – that ability to just push away, to not play on his game and still shoot 67 – that’s what is going to make him great.
“Very few people in the game of golf have that ability to push the button when they really need to and it looks like Rory really has that.”
In the past, it was said that when Rory played his best, ‘no-one could touch him’. Now it appears that he has developed the skill of getting the most from his game, even on those days when he is not actually playing that well.
That was evidenced perfectly on Sunday when he fought back over the closing nine holes to win his fourth major.
“To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot,” said Rory.
“It is more satisfying to gut it out and win ugly.It means that I know that I can do it. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top.”