Paul Krishnamurty looks back on a weekend that saw Rory McIlroy become $15M richer, move back to world number two and send a message to his closest rivals...
"EVR has bags of potential and warrants the utmost respect moving forward. Virtually every world-class South African to emerge in my lifetime went on to either win or go very close in majors."
For the second week running, class dominated on both the European and PGA Tours. Erik Van Rooyen won his first title at this level, touching off Matt Fitzpatrick in Gothenburg. Rory McIlroy prevailed after an elite quartet monopolised the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup race.
Van Rooyen breakthrough just the start
Van Rooyen was popular in the betting throughout, if below the likes of Fitzpatrick and Henrik Stenson until snatching the lead with a superb birdie run to close round three. The South African dispelled doubts raised by previous failures to convert leads with another brilliant 64.
I believe that round will come to represent a significant turning point in this fine prospect's career. EVR has bags of potential and warrants the utmost respect moving forward. Virtually every world-class South African to emerge in my lifetime went on to either win or go very close in majors.
One thing I really like is that he has a blatant weakness - he ranked 123rd for scrambling amongst last week's field over the previous year - that is not insurmountable. This is a common feature of inexperience. Invariably they do the work and ultimately shave several shots off each week. High-class form becomes elite-class.
Magnificent McIlroy gains sweet revenge
McIlroy may already have dozens of titles in the bank but this one must have been almost as sweet - winning $15M, gaining revenge on Southwind victor Brooks Koepka and stating the clearest message possible to the rest.
Starting five strokes behind Justin Thomas under the new handicap format, McIlroy was around [10.0] to win the Tour Championship. He also finished as low scorer over 72 holes. His -13 'real' total was outstanding in difficult conditions - a performance to rival his seven-stroke Canadian Open victory.
He could be forgiven for sensing deja vu once Koepka assumed the early final round lead but it all changed on the seventh. A three-shot swing left Rory two up and he never looked back. Brooks' putter deserted him on the back nine, leaving Xander Schauffele the main challenger. It got momentarily interesting when McIlroy bogeyed 14 and 15 but he never drifted beyond [1.16].
Not a good week, although relatively quiet. To be honest I've only had half an eye on the golf all weekend due to it coinciding with that remarkable test match at Headingley.
In Sweden, I lost eight units on Ashun Wu and Victor Perez. Both legitimate trades, hoping they would last the pace with those elite challengers. Elsewhere on these pages, Joe Dyer bagged a place for our each-way column with Alex Levy.
I lost another five backing Justin Thomas to repeat last week's winning weekend bet. No regrets. He led before rain curtailed Saturday's play, then ruined his chance with a triple-bogey towards the end of that round on Sunday. You can't get away with such mistakes in this company but on another day, the cards fall differently.
New FedEx format worked out well
Of course, the week's big talking points came out of East Lake. Whilst I appreciate the new format wasn't to everyone's taste, I thought it worked. The biggest prize of the season boiled down to a shoot-out between four elite players.
From a betting perspective, the Tour Championship market traded like any regular event. As it turned out the Lowest 72 Hole Score market produced the same 1-2.
Granted it could feel unfair if a different player won the latter market without a prize, but to be frank, I'm not losing sleep over fairness for elite golfers. The FedEx Cup has always been something of a gimmick and certainly does not have anything like major status.
Nevertheless, that leaderboard felt like a major. It was yet another elite event where outsiders were nowhere to be seen. The gap seems to be growing.
Rory immediately back in action
There's just the one event this week, on the European Tour. The Omega European Masters from Crans-sur-Sierre has a long history and invariably produces a world-class winner.
Fitzpatrick is aiming for his third straight win there but doesn't start out as favourite. That honour is reserved for McIlroy, on a relatively rare European outing. Steve Rawlings will be back with his preview tomorrow.
*You can follow me on Twitter @paulmotty