Rory McIlroy wins US PGA Championship with “gutsy” performance
Rory McIlroy showed plenty of guts as he overcame the challenge of Phil Mickelson, torrential rainfall and fading light to win his fourth major title at Valhalla.
The Northern Irishman endured poor from on the front nine which saw him surrender a one-shot overnight lead, before charging home on the back nine for a spectacular three-under 68 – winning by one from American Phil Mickelson, who shot a closing 66.
McIlroy followed up from his Open victory at Royal Liverpool last month to become the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back majors.
When McIlroy lifted the Wanamaker Trophy overhead, it marked a milestone in the Nike Golf player’s career as he became the third youngest player after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to attain four majors; just one less than the total won by the late Steve Ballesteros and two behind Nike Faldo.
Last night was drama-packed as the players had to endure a rain-drenched final day which finished in near darkness – with the lights blazing from the clubhouse behind the 18th green.
Fowler and Henrik Stenson had formed part of a three-way tie for the lead, with Callaway Golf’s Phil Mickelson on the back nine. But they dropped shots on the closing stretch to end their game’s two behind McIlroy on 14 under.
The course was hammered relentlessly at times by torrential downpours which flooded the green and turned bunkers into mini swimming pools, causing a delay of almost two hours. This meant that play was then a race against time to get everyone finished, to the extent that Mickelson and Fowler stood aside on the 18th to allow the final group to tee off.
McIlroy hit a drive that finished dangerously close to water on the right of the fairway, but a closing par five from a greenside bunker was enough for the 25-year-old to secure his second US PGA title.
Earlier, Rory had dropped two shots in his first six holes and trailed the impressive Fowler by three as he reached the turn. His struggles were made all the more evident when Fowler recovered marvellously from a bogey on the second with four birdies in his next five holes.
The par-five 10th had cost McIlroy a double-bogey seven on Thursday but three says later he blasted a fairway wood to seven feet and holed the eagle putt to move back into contention in style.
Mickelson then birdied the 11th to join his playing partner Fowler in the lead, with the American pair exchanging first-pumps as they walked to the 12th tee, and then Stenson made it a three-way tie with a birdie of his own on the 13th.
Stenson was initially thankful when his approach carried over the water, only to then three-putt the next to drop out of the lead and effectively end any hopes of a maiden major title.
McIlroy missed great birdie chances on the 11th and 12th, the latter of which seeing Mickelson in the group ahead hole from 30 feet across the greens for an unlikely and exciting par.
However, the world no.1 made no mistake from eight feet on the 13th to power back into a share of the lead with five holes to go.
And the pressure finally became too much for Rickie Fowler to bare, and he cracked with a wayward tee shot that led to a bogey on the 14th. Mickelson then bogeyed the 16th to allow McIlroy to gain the outright lead for the first time since the third hole.
In fading light, McIlroy put the finishing touches to his victory with a superb birdie from nine feet on the 17th to revel in a two-shot lead as he entered the last.
Mickelson seemed unhappy with being asked to make way for McIlroy on the 18th but almost holed his pitch shot for an eagle, with the ball forcing McIlroy to make par for the win.
Speaking to Sky Sports after his victory, McIlroy said: “It’s been just incredible.
“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this. I’ve played the best golf of my life.
“I really gutted it out today, this was a different way to win a major.
"The other three were quite comfortable but I really had to dig deep today.”
What’s in the bag? Rory McIlroy
FAIRWAY WOOD:Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Fairway Wood
IRONS:Nike VR Pro Blade
WEDGES:Nike VR Forged
PUTTER: Nike Method 006 Prototype
BALLS: Nike RZN Black