SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - Here is a thumbs up for the runner-up. Jordan Spieth deserves that much for helping to make the PGA Championship such a good show. He deserves it more for what he did on the 17th green, watching the opponent's putt that would make it pretty much impossible for Spieth to win. As the long lag settled close enough for a tap-in, Spieth gave Jason Day a thumbs up.
It was as if to say: "You did it, buddy. Good playing."
Spieth had done the same thing in April when Justin Rose made a shot at the Masters that could have derailed Spieth's march to the green jacket. Spieth won that day, and lost Sunday in the final round of the PGA Championship. The point is, the 22-year-old No. 1 player in the world is as consistent in class as he is in his golf.
Good for him. He had one of the best years ever in major championships, winning the first two, missing a playoff at the British Open by one shot, then finishing second by three shots to Day Sunday -- a result that was sealed with Day's two-putt par on the difficult 17th hole. Spieth remained consistent in how he plays and who he is.
"You want to be in it all the time. That's why we play the sport," he said after shooting 4-under-par 68 to finish 17 under for the week at Whistling Straits. "You want to feel the pressure that we felt today. That was fun. It was fun waking up today, knowing I've got another chance to win a major."
The truth is, Spieth was fine, but he was not at his best Sunday. He never really did put heat on Day, who had come up short every other time he had been in position to win a major. It was Day who took the initiative, making birdie on the par-5 second hole to go up by three. It was Spieth who made the first key mistake. After a birdie on No. 3, he pulled his drive into a sloped bunker on No. 4 and made bogey.
It was a scene that Spieth might regret someday. It also was a sign of how hard it is to win majors, even if you're the No. 1 player in the world. Spieth earned that distinction Sunday, moving past Rory McIlroy in the Official World Golf Ranking, despite losing to Day, who moved up to No. 3.
"It's by far the best consolation, by far the best loss I've ever had," Spieth said.
Funny how things work out. Going into the day, Spieth was trailing, but he had so much positive experience, it felt as if Day would be chasing him. By the end, Spieth finished second and moved into first. That's golf. He is comfortable riding those waves. Other golfers see it in him, realizing that he has won four times this year and been second or tied for second four times.
"It's inspiring to see what Jordan has done, for sure," said Tony Finau, a fellow American golfer in his 20s. "He's [22 years old] and destroying every tournament he plays in."
McIlroy, who finished before the new rankings became official, said: "I feel like I'm playing well, but if he does go to No. 1 today, it's very deservedly so. I'd be the first one to congratulate him because I know the golf you have to play to get to that spot, and it has been impressive this year."
Spieth has a quality that makes you agree with him that it's sad the major season is over. He makes you want to see what he can do in the next one. It is a good bet that he is going to be right there at the top. It is a sure thing that he is going to know when to tip his cap.
"It will never be taken away from me now. I'll always be a No. 1 player in the world," he said. "Second best behind Jason Day, of course, this week."