By Brian O’Hare
RORY MCILROY has shown what a very special golfer he is, fighting back to take the 2014 US PGA Championship in near darkness.
It isn’t so much that the 25 year old Northern Irishman has notched his second straight major golf title – the fourth of his career and the third youngest to do so after Woods and Nicklaus – but the manner of its doing.
His third straight tournament win in three weeks against the world’s best wasn’t a runaway – as has often been the case in his previous victories; he had to dig deep.
McIlroy started the rain interrupted final round at the Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky with a one stroke lead and soon faltered. The putts just weren’t dropping and there were a couple of early bogies.
Soon it was a very crowded leaderboard with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson overtaking McIlroy and making the pre-tournament favourite look like an also ran.
We all know golf can be like that, all fine and dandy when things are going well but it can all go very wrong and nasty very quickly. McIlroy blowing his 54 hole lead at the 2011 US Masters with a final round 80 is a case in point. But this is a different golfer.
McIlroy didn’t let it slide, he kicked up a notch, firstly becoming the only golfer on the day to reach the par five 10th in two. The resulting eagle put him just a stroke behind the then joint leaders. [See the “Shot of the Day” video below]]
The fightback continued down the stretch as it appeared the closing darkness would beat everyone home.
A birdie on the 17th gave McIlroy a two stroke buffer over Mickelson and Fowler, who he ended up playing virtually on top of down the 18th in an effort to beat the darkness and a possible next day return.
A par on the last was enough, with McIlroy finishing with a 3-under 68 to be 16-under for the tournament, one stroke clear of Mickelson (66) with Fowler(68) and Stenson (66) tied third on 14 under.
Australia’s best were Jason Day (72) and Adam Scott (69), who finished on 9-under tied for 15th.
Day challenged at various stages of the event but with his injury limited tournament play this year just wasn’t sinking putts when it mattered. He should now be nicely set up for the US PGA Tour’s Final Series in coming weeks. Scott had a very consistent tournament with rounds of 71, 69, 66, 69, but it just wasn’t enough to seriously threaten.
McIlroy was, of course, ecstatic.
“It’s been just incredible,” he said after accepting the PGA Championship trophy for the second time. “I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this.”
“I’ve just played the best golf of my life. I just really gutted it out today. It was a little different than the previous major wins I’ve had. I think I showed a lot of guts out there today to get this job done.”
And there was no way he had wanted to take the conservative route and abandon play for the day and return Monday, even though he admitted the lack of light was affecting play , particularly his depth of field perception when playing out of the final greenside bunker.
“I wanted to win this thing and get out of here,” he said
McIlroy will now go to Augusta National in April seeking a career grand slam. He previously won the US Open in 2011, the PGA Championship in 2012 and the British Open three weeks ago, before winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week.2014 US PGA Championship Leaderboard