Louisville, Aug 11: Top-ranked Rory McIlroy won his fourth major title by capturing the PGA Championship in a dramatic shotmakers’ showdown over the back nine at rain-softened Valhalla.
Three weeks after winning the British Open, the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland took his second major victory in a row and third consecutive triumph overall in impressive fashion yesterday.
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 British and US Open runner-up Rickie Fowler two adrift.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland took the Wanamaker Trophy, even grabbing the lid as it fell during the awards ceremony, and a $1.34 million (7.45 million euro) top prize.
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, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, and has taken four of the past 15 majors contested.
Four of golf’s biggest stars staged a trophy battle down the backstretch worthy of anything the Kentucky Derby horses at nearby Churchill Downs ever produced.
Drenched by 2.2 inches of rain in three days, Valhalla offered birdie chances while the back nine turned up the tension and produced a spectacle.
Adding to the pressure was a rain delay of nearly two hours that left the leaders racing to finish before nightfall, dark clouds looming over the 18th green as McIlroy finished in twilight.
McIlroy opened the back nine with an eagle, added a birdie on 13 and sank a tense 10-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole to seize a two-stroke advantage.
McIlroy found the right rough off the tee at the par-5 18th and a greenside bunker with his approach while Mickelson and Fowler were on the green. 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 shy of the cup and parred to seal the most hard-fought of his major wins.