Rory McIlroy just pulled off what might be the best win of the year in golf. At the European Tour's premier event, the BMW PGA Championship, McIlroy, who started the day seven shots off the lead, stormed to a Sunday round of 66 to finish 14-under with the victory. He got a little help from 54-hole leader Thomas Bjorn, who leaked oil much of the day, but McIlroy's inward 32 put him in the clubhouse up two over the four chasers behind him. No one could close that gap, and Rory walked off with his biggest win since that 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah.
The consensus reaction will be that this was such a momentous win because it came just days after Rory announced he had called off his wedding to Caroline Wozniacki, which came just days after the duo had sent out invitations. But that's just a facile narrative. McIlroy has been playing good golf all year, he played good golf this week, and he won.
He should have at least one win this year, and probably two (Honda Classic, Abu Dhabi). The 2014 Rory is nothing like the ugly, sputtering 2013 Rory. But he hasn't been able to close from ahead on the weekends. On Sunday, he chased down and closed in a big way.
It'll be nice and easy to talk about all he's "going through" and all the "distractions" but we have no idea a) how severe that all is for him and b) how it is affecting his golf game. The most talented player in the field, who's been playing well all season, walked off with the richest purse in Euro golf. He chipped in, he got up-and-down, he striped it, and pulled off the largest comeback of his career.
What's most impressive is that McIlroy achieved this on a course that he's not crazy about and hasn't played well on in recent years. The Wentworth design has not suited Rory, and he's said as much. He's missed the cut at this flagship event the last two years, and while he's the best, he was up against a loaded field. That he ripped off four under-par rounds and cleared the field on Sunday at a venue he does not like is more indicative that the McIlroy we know as the clear top non-Tiger talent in golf is "back." He had top-10 results at The Masters and The Players, but those were widely regarded as backdoor T10s. Rory was going to be a favorite at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open, and this enormous win just three weeks out will solidify that status.
Of course, McIlroy didn't seem happy about breaking up with Wozniacki and wasn't having fun addressing it to the media on Wednesday. It was difficult to watch and the normal reaction was to feel bad for both involved. Maybe the golf course is a "sanctuary" from all that, maybe it's not. That will be easy to write, pretending we understand his psychology at all (after the round, McIroy himself said he was "not sure" how he felt). That the victory came this week is a part of the story, but the way things were going, Rory was going to win again soon. Golf needed it, and the title coming at such a strong event makes it the biggest victory of the year in the sport.