McIlroy shines in darkness for dramatic PGA Championship win
After a fourth round that endured a nearly two hour rain delay over the rain soaked Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, Roy McIlroy needed two putts on the final hole in the darkness from 35 feet for par and a one-stroke PGA Championship victory.
On the 18th with darkness nearly encompassing the entire course, McIlroy received a big break when his tee shot landed right just one yard from going in the hazard, saved by the forgiving wet grounds. He managed to escape a sand trap after his second shot to continue his scalding-hot run of success.
McIlroy’s second major victory in a row and fourth overall adds to a current stretch of golf that included a win in the British Open and the World Golf Championship at Firestone against the best players in the world,. The Northern Irishman has fired 11 straight competitive rounds under par.
The 16-under par total with scores of 66-67-67-68 by the 25-year old bettered Phil Mickelson by one stroke and Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson by two.
This year’s 96th playing of the PGA Championship at the site off America’s last Ryder Cup win in 2008 under Captain Paul Azinger was won on the back nine for McIlroy, who made the turn at one over par on the day and 12-under for the championship. At that point, Fowler led at -15 and the 44 year old Mickelson was tied for second with Henrik Stenson at -14.
McIlroy had a major momentum shift when he hit his second shot from 280 yards on the par-5 10th to within seven feet of the cup and made the eagle putter. He went on to birdie 13 and 17 for a 4-under 32 on the final nine.
Fowler’s bogey on 14 after a missed three-foot putt for par cost the American the lead. Missed birdie opportunities including a three-putt on 18 for par was too much to overcome on a day when the course was there for the taking in many spot. He finished the back at even par 36.
This year’s championship will also be remembered for Mickelson and Fowler’s sportsmanship to allow the final group of McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger to hit their tee shots before Mickelson and Fowler hit their second shots on the final hole. The move came at the urging of on-course officials, allowing the final pairing the chance to play out the 18th at their discretion even if play had to be stopped due to the conditions. The duo was then allowed to hit their second shots before Mickelson and Fowler reached the green. This somewhat confusing sequence is sure to be discussed in the days to come.
Mickelson felt the sting of another close major to slip away with a costly bogey on 16 after a poor tee shot. He could only manage a 1-under 35 on the back with a near eagle chip from just off the green on the 18th hole.
The Swedish international Stenson could only manage even par on the back nine to also finish two back with Fowler. Major championship pressure took its toll, but McIiroy handled it best late to win.
“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this,” said McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked player. “I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today.”
Fowler had a tremendous year in the majors with a 5th place at The Masters, 2nd at the US and British Opens and 3rd at the PGA. He is the first player in history to finish in the top 5 in all four majors and not win.
“I really felt I could win this one, disappointed to come up short,” said Fowler. “But like I said, to look back on the full year and all four majors, definitely something to be proud of.”
Finishing strong for huge victories has not been a problem for Rory McIlroy. His latest triumph has deep historical significance for many reasons, listed here courtesy of the Golf Channel research department:
*Third youngest to win four career majors in the modern era (Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus
*Fourth to win multiple PGA Championships before 30 (Woods, Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen)
*Fifth to win multiple professional majors in the same season at 25 or younger
*First to win three consecutive PGA Tour starts since Woods in 2007-08 (5 consecutive)
*Trails only Nick Faldo (6) and Seve Ballesteros (5) for most majors won by a European-born players since first Masters in 1934.
McIlroy will target the next two majors, The Masters and US Open in 2015, with a “Rory slam” of four straight wins in golf’s biggest tournament looking more and more like a strong possibility.
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