LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Great golf can lead to short memories.
The PGA Championship provided the kind of theater anyone could expect from a major. Big shots. Tiny mistakes. High stakes on every swing. Not even the confusion on the 18th hole, when the only major for professionals looked more like amateur hour, could take away from that.
But the best ever?
Only a year ago, everyone was raving about Phil Mickelson turning in one of the great closing rounds in a major to win the British Open on a back nine with Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods in his way.
Four top players with a chance in the final hour? Been there, done that. As much as Pinehurst No. 2 is remembered for Payne Stewart's par putt, the 1999 U.S. Open came down to Stewart, Mickelson, Woods and Vijay Singh over the last three holes.
Woods won the 2001 Masters to complete his sweep of the majors in a back-nine battle with Mickelson. They were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, joined by David Duval.
And those are just examples from the last 15 years.
This PGA Championship stood out because it delivered great drama — and great timing.
Valhalla was even more exciting because the other three majors this year were on the dull side. This time, golf saved its best major for last.
Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth was only compelling until Watson turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead around the turn at the Masters. Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open was exquisite for the golf purist, a snoozer for everyone else. No one got closer than four shots over the last 48 holes. McIlroy had a six-shot lead at Hoylake. That "maybe" moment with Sergio Garcia lasted only as long as it took him two shots to get out of a pot bunker.
More than the drama at Valhalla was the guy in the starring role.
In a season filled with the unexpected — 11 players ranked outside the top 100 have won on the PGA Tour — McIlroy's one-shot victory over Mickelson in the final major of the year gave golf some clarity. There is no doubt who's the best player in golf.
With his third straight win, McIlroy became the first No. 1 player to win a major since Woods won his last one at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Of course, a great player can cause memory lapses, too.
McIlroy is only 25, making him the third-youngest player in the last century to win four majors, behind Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Woods already had the career Grand Slam when he was 24, and while Nicklaus holds the record with 18 majors, Woods owns the definition of dominance. He won seven of 11 majors in one stretch, and he went 37 straight majors before missing his first cut as a pro.