LOUISVILLE: Rory McIlroy put himself among golf’s greatest legends on Sunday (Monday in Manila) by winning his fourth major title in dramatic fashion, capturing the PGA Championship in a shotmakers’ showdown at rain-softened Valhalla.
Three weeks after winning the British Open, the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland rallied on the back nine to take his second major victory in a row and third consecutive triumph overall in impressive fashion.
“Amazing. Incredible. I’m not sure I’ll ever have another summer like this,” McIlroy said. “I’ve got a lot of golf left to play this year, but I have to enjoy what I’ve just done.”
McIlroy fired a three-under par 68 in the final round to finish 72 holes on 16-under par 268 and edge five-time major winner Phil Mickelson by one shot with Sweden’s fourth-ranked Henrik Stenson and American Rickie Fowler two adrift.
McIlroy’s hat-trick of victories after the British Open and a World Golf Championships event last week give him the longest win streak since Tiger Woods completed a run of five in a row in 2008.
McIlroy became the fourth-youngest man to win his fourth major—trailing only Young Tom Morris, Woods and Jack Nicklaus—and has taken four of the past 15 majors contested.
“I try and put all this talk aside every time it comes up, but Tiger and Jack are two of the most successful players in our sport of all time,” McIlroy said.
“I’m on a nice track at the minute and I’m on a nice path. I’ve still got a long way to go, but to be in their company at this age is very special.”
McIlroy is the first man to win two majors in a row or in the same year since Ireland’s Padraig Harrington took the British Open and PGA in 2008.
Combined with German Martin Kaymer’s US Open triumph in June, McIlroy’s double means Europeans have won three of four majors in a year for the first time.
McIlroy took the Wanamaker Trophy, even grabbing the lid as it fell during the awards ceremony, and a $1.8 million (1.34 million euro) top prize.
Eagle lets McIlroy soar
A backstretch trophy battle worthy of anything the Kentucky Derby horses at nearby Churchill Downs ever produced came on a course weakened by 2.2 inches of rain over three days.
Bogeys at the third and sixth holes dropped McIlroy from the lead and even after a birdie at seven he made the turn three off the pace set by penultimate pair Mickelson and Fowler.
At the par-5 10th, McIlroy smashed his second shot 274 yards and made a seven-foot eagle putt to pull within one stroke of the leaders.
“That was the turning point in the whole tournament for me,” McIlroy said. “I struggled on the front nine and then to get myself within one of Rickie and Phil, I felt like I had a really good chance.”
US left-hander Mickelson found the rough at 16, bounced his bunker shot over the hole and left a 10-foot par putt just short for bogey.
McIlroy found a fairway bunker at 17 but hit to 10 feet and curled in the birdie putt for a two-shot lead.
An earlier rain delay had forced the players to race nightfall to finish, with dark clouds looming as the drama reached the par-5 18th hole.
McIlroy found a greenside bunker with his approach, made while Mickelson and Fowler were on the green in the dimming light.
“It was a classy move for those guys to let us come up because they didn’t need to,” McIlroy said. “They could have let us just stand there and wait in darkness and make it a little bit more difficult. True sportsmanship. They called us up and it was a classy move.”
Mickelson missed an 70-foot eagle bid but tapped in for birdie to pull within one of McIlroy while Fowler settled for par to end his title hopes.
McIlroy blasted out to 34 feet, left a birdie putt inches short and tapped in to win.
Defeat hurts for US duo
“It was good for me to get back in the thick of it, to compete in big tournaments,” said Mickelson, whose only prior top-10 effort this year was a January runner-up finish at Abu Dhabi.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome. Had I been able to finish those last five or six holes strong, could have totally flipped the way I look at this year.”
Fowler, the US and British Open runner-up who also shared fifth at the Masters, matched Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors one year, the first since Woods did it in 2005 but also the first to do so without a win.
“This is probably the one that hurts the most for me with the majors this year,” Fowler said. “I just wish I could have given myself a couple of better looks on the last couple holes.”