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On Monday afternoon at TPC Boston, Rory McIlroy put the PGA Tour Player of the Year debate to bed with an impressive 4-under 67 that saw him win the Deutsche Bank Championship by one shot and pick up his third win of the season.
But forget about the Player of the Year hardware for a second; the win ended another, far more important debate that's been raging recently: Who's the best golfer on the planet. Prior to McIlroy's win at the PGA Championship, you could have kicked around a couple of names for the top spot in the sport.
Following McIlroy's win in Boston? Well, there's no need to debate who the king of golf is at the moment. It's the kid from Northern Ireland.
After spending the last year questioning his lack of closing ability and his inability to put consistent finishes together, the 23-year-old managed to add another eight-shot major win and a come-from-behind victory at the Deutsche Bank to his resume in less than a month.
Say what you will about McIlroy still being young and having moments where his game inexplicably disappears for stretches, but for the first time, it seems like he finally has a handle on closing out tournaments -- something that didn't seem possible back in April after he fell out of contention on the weekend at the Masters for the second straight year.
However, things have changed over the last month. After going through the worst drought of his career -- a stretch that included three straight missed cuts, a missed cut at the U.S. Open and a T-60 at the British Open -- McIlroy found something at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Ever since that T-5 in Akron, he's looked like a different golfer. Case in point: The start he had during the final round on Monday. Instead of waiting for the leader to make a mistake, McIlroy played the role of the aggressor, opening his round with five birdies in his first eight holes, turning a three-shot deficit into a lead. He looked to be well on his way to his third win when he extended the lead to three shots on the 12th hole.
Even with McIlroy's strong start, Louis Oosthuizen, who battled a pulled chest muscle for much of the round, didn't go down without a fight. The South African birdied the 13th and 15th to cut the lead to one with three holes to play, but when his birdie putt slid by the hole on the 18th he had to settle for a second-place finish and a spot on the list of 54-hole leaders to squander a sizable lead in the final round this season.
We've spent countless hours dissecting the struggles of the 54-hole leader this year, but there's no question this win didn't fall into McIlroy's lap. He went out and earned it with a strong final round -- one that proved once and for all that he's the best golfer in the world for the moment.
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