Rory, Rickie, Phil and a trophy fumble. Remembering Valhalla, 10 years later

Pro golfer rory mcilroy drops wanamaker trophy at 2014 PGA championship.

Rory McIlroy's Wanamaker fumble punctuated an otherwise bizarre 2014 PGA Championship.

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To watch the 2014 PGA Championship is to remember that you are now old.

There are many strange things about the pictures that greet you when you queue up the YouTube highlights: two-toned, obviously-out-of-style outfits; grainy, not-quite-HD video; old, familiar voices that haven’t appeared on CBS telecasts in many years. And then, all at once, the camera shoots to one of the three men who decided that year’s tournament — also held at this week’s tournament host, Valhalla, in the outskirts of Louisville — and there is no avoiding the obvious. You are older now, because so are they.

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First there’s Rickie Fowler, a peak-Rickie Fowler highlighter orange shirt flapping against a rail-thin torso, wearing the kind of shock-to-the-eyes color and swagger that makes it immediately obvious how he became a fan favorite. Then there’s Phil Mickelson, huskier than in recent years, brown curls springing from beneath his unusually wide-brimmed hat — looking like a boy trapped in a man’s body. And then, charging up behind them to the 72nd tee box of the 2014 PGA Championship, there’s the most prudent reminder of a bygone era: Rory McIlroy, hair longer and pants wider, eyes lowered into a kind of death glare. The golf world is wrapped entirely around his fingertips in this grainy image, and though this Rory doesn’t know it yet, he has about 15 minutes left until it will leave him for at least another decade.

It is the oddity of witnessing this scene in May of 2024 that almost makes you forget the oddity of witnessing this scene in August of 2014 — which is a shame, because that image was almost weirder.

The end of the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla began with a late-summer rain shower thrashing against the humid heat of Louisville in August. The water fell in big globs on Sunday morning, dousing the golf course in puddles large enough to delay play for more than an hour. By the time things resumed, the tournament — and its leader — quickly found themselves in a race against daylight.

Rory McIlroy entered the day in a one-shot lead at Valhalla, but the rain seemed to sap him of his strength. A pair of bogeys on the first six holes on Sunday sent him tumbling down a leaderboard filled with names like Fowler, Mickelson and Henrik Stenson, who were taking advantage of the newly softened conditions.

As McIlroy reached the turn, it seemed the tournament might well have ended this way — echoing eerily of his heartbreaking collapse at the 2011 Masters. But this time, it was the 10th hole that saved his tournament.

After a brilliant second shot on the par-5, McIlroy poured in a lengthy eagle putt to vault him back into contention, setting off a stretch of five under in nine holes to seize back the tournament. Clinging to a two-stroke lead on the 17th, McIlroy appeared to be on the brink of a fourth-career major victory, needing only a par on the last to push past Mickelson and Fowler. But a bigger enemy loomed much closer: darkness that threatened to push the tournament to a Monday finish.

As CBS’s broadcasters murmured about it being “much darker than it looks,” Fowler and Mickelson proved as much to be true, allowing McIlroy to tee off with them on the 72nd tee box, ensuring that McIlroy (and the tournament) could finish before the horn on Sunday. A bizarre sequence ensued, with all six golfers from the final three pairings ambling up the 18th fairway together. Mickelson and Fowler, both an eagle away from tying McIlroy and possibly forcing extra holes, hit their approaches into the 18th with the tournament leader standing just feet away. Neither golfer hit their approach particularly close, and both narrowly missed their eagle tries.

The runway was open for McIlroy, back in the rough in an awkward stance, to win the tournament with a par on the last. He would take advantage, blasting an approach into the front bunker, chipping up onto the green and two-putting for a one-stroke major championship victory.

Flashbulbs illuminated the darkness around the 18th as McIlroy unleashed a furious fist-pump to celebrate the occasion, and again from just off the 18th green, when a still-boyish Rory accidentally spilled the lid off the Wanamaker Trophy as the night descended. The botched celebration was a fitting ending to a strange final round — and what remains, a decade later, the most recent major championship of McIlroy’s playing life.

Much has changed in the years since that Sunday in Louisville. The PGA Championship has new cameras, new styles, and even a new slot on the pro golf schedule. McIlroy has seen major championship glory fade into a distant memory, while Fowler and Mickelson’s legacies have taken on new hues. But as the golf world turns back to Valhalla again this week, at least one thing has not: Rory is in the field, and he’s one of the tournament favorites.

He’s different now, hardened in the way that time calluses all of us. But not too different or hardened to dream of another historic week in Louisville.

In those ways, at least, it seems we’re not all that different. Just 10 years older.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at

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