Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Rory McIlroy seizes US PGA crown from the front

Poulter's last-round challenge inspires the Ulsterman to clinch first UK triumph since 1930

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his victory after a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, S.C., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his victory after a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, S.C., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy wore red yesterday and channelled Tiger Woods circa 2000 to win the 94th US PGA Championship by eight shots with a score of 13 under par. His final round of 66 was a stunning encore to his maiden eight-shot major victory at the US Open last year.

Sport has just witnessed another jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, shot-making, wedge-zipping, history-making performance from the Holywood hero.



"It was a great round of golf," McIlroy said. "I just wanted to play solid but got off to a bit of a shaky start. From there I settled into it and I thought my putting was phenomenal. It's been an incredible week."



McIlroy is the first Northern Irishman to kiss the enormous silver Wanamaker Trophy and the first player from the UK to win the US PGA Championship since Edinburgh's Tommy Armour won as an American citizen in 1930.



Aged 23 years and 100 days, McIlroy usurps Woods in 1999 as the youngest ever champion and is also the youngest to claim his first two majors since Seve Ballesteros won the Masters in 1980. Since The European Tour's first season in 1972, McIlroy joins Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle as the third player from the UK to win multiple majors. Exalted company, indeed.



McIlroy was writing his own history. The player leading after 54 holes has failed to win 11 of the last 14 majors and not one of them was this year. Until now. And this was the era of 16 different champions in the last 16 majors. Strike that record, too.



It was never in doubt once McIlroy reached the back nine with his three-shot lead from the third round intact. But it wasn't without its hiccups. He strayed off line from the ninth tee, and left himself a Phil Mickelson-style parachute fop shot across a cavernous hollow on the edge of the green. He zipped it to five feet from the hole. Genius.



He followed the putt into the hole with his first air punch of the day. He knew the significance of saving par. He played another "get out of jail free" card at the 10th after hooking his tee shot on to a sandy path. He hacked into a greenside bunker and almost holed out for a birdie.



Ian Poulter did his best to put up a fight. He birdied the first five holes, draining a total of 60 feet of putts. He sped from one under par to six under par to get McIlroy's attention.



But rather than intimidate McIlroy, it seemed to inspire him. Among all the birdies, it was those two sensational par saves at the ninth and 10th that demonstrated he had no intention of recreating his Masters meltdown from last year or of matching Adam Scott's final four-holes implosion at the Open last month.



After his Sunday morning lie-in was rudely awakened by a dawn chorus alarm call, McIlroy tapped in for his par to finish his storm-delayed third round at seven under par. As he strolled off the 18th green, he spotted his father, Gerry. There was no hug. No smile. No words between them. Just a quick handshake and a knowing look. Maybe they knew that all those predicting an easy victory were right. Or maybe they realized the difficulty of the task ahead. Or maybe they were just both still half-asleep. McIlroy slipped off for a snooze before the final round. How's that for cool?



The Olympics showed, once again, that no lead is big enough, unless your name is Usian Bolt or McIlroy, and that the only lead you need is one one-hundredth of a second. The only guarantee is that there will be tears of joy and despair – by athletes and spectators alike.



Thirty thousand golf fans trooped through the gates of the Ocean Course each day here via the only road in an out of Kiawah Island. The nearest city, Charleston, is 45 minutes away. The journey time for many was up to two hours. And still they came. And when they got here, they endured monsoon downpours, end of the world thunderstorms and got eaten alive by mosquitos but not, thankfully, by the alligators.



Sports fans will go to extraordinary lengths to support their heroes. Yesterday they cheered McIlroy all the way along his back-nine coronation. They applauded Woods, too, who reverted to missing putts and thrashing drivers into the wilderness to finish at two under. They clapped the underdogs too, like Stoke's world No 98 David Lynn, who probably surprised even himself by finishing runner-up at five under ahead of Poulter, Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley and Carl Pettersson, all on four under.



It's not about trophies or the medals table; it's about the love of sport. Whether it's Bolt or Mo Farah in the Olympic Stadium in London, or McIlroy at the end of a one-lane track in South Carolina, the message is the same. Like the voice said in Field of Dreams: "Build it, and he will come."



Leaderboard

13 under - Rory McIlroy (NIrl) (after 72 holes)

5 under - David Lynn (Eng) (72)

4 under - Keegan Bradley (72)

Carl Pettersson (Swe) (72)

Ian Poulter (Eng) (72)

Justin Rose (Eng) (72)

3 under - Blake Adams (72)

Jamie Donaldson (Wal) (72)

Peter Hanson (Swe) (72)

Steve Stricker (72)

2 under - Tim Clark (Rsa) (72)

Ben Curtis (72)

Graeme McDowell (NIrl) (72)

Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) (72)

Adam Scott (Aus) (72)

Bubba Watson (72)

Tiger Woods (72)

1 under - John Daly (72)

Padraig Harrington (Irl) (72)

Bo Van Pelt (72)

Rory McIlroy factfile

1989: Born on May 4 in Holywood, Northern Ireland.

2005: Plays in his first professional European Tour event as a 16-year-old at The Forest of Arden. In July, shoots a course-record 61 on the Dunluce links at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

2007: May - Makes the cut in a European Tour event for the first time at the Dubai Desert Classic.

July - Hits the headlines with an opening round of 68 in the Open Championship at Carnoustie, the only bogey-free round of the day. He goes on to tie for 42nd position and accepts the Silver Medal as leading amateur.

September 18 - After topping the amateur rankings, McIlroy turns professional.

October - Finishes third in his second pro event, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The following week, he secures his card for the 2008 season by finishing in a tie for fourth place at the Open de Madrid.

2008: September 7 - Takes a four-shot lead into the final round at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland but bogeys the 18th to tie with Jean-Francois Lucquin, who goes on to win in a play-off. Finishes the season in the top 100 of the world rankings and ranked 36th on the European Tour Order of Merit.

November - Finishes second in the UBS Hong Kong Open, helping him attain his highest world ranking position of 50, making him the youngest player ever to make the top 50. A joint-third placing in the South African Open earns him an invitation to the Masters in April 2009, only 18 months after turning pro.

2009: February 1 - Wins first professional title at the Dubai Desert Classic by one shot from Justin Rose.

April - Plays his first major as a professional at the Masters. He finishes the tournament at two under par in a tie for 20th.

June - Makes his US Open debut and impresses, finishing 10th.

July - Plays in first Open Championship as a professional. His final position is tied 47th.

August - Achieves his best finish in a major to date, tied third at the USPGA Championship.

November - After finishing second to Lee Westwood in the Race to Dubai, enters the world's top 10 for the first time.

2010: May 2 - Secures first PGA Tour win with victory in the Quail Hollow Championship. His final-round 62 is a new course record. Becomes the the first player since Tiger Woods to triumph on the PGA Tour prior to his 21st birthday.

July 15 - Shoots a nine-under-par 63 on the opening day at St Andrews to lead The Open. Rounds of 80, 68 and 69 see him end the tournament tied for third to rise to seventh in the world.

August 15 - Ties for third in the USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

October 4 - Wins a crucial half point against Stewart Cink to help Europe win the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

2011: April 10 - Takes four-shot lead into final round of the Masters at Augusta but shoots eight-over-par final round of 80 to finish tied 15th.

June 19 - Wins US Open at Congressional for his first major title.

2012: March 4 - Wins the Honda Classic in Florida to claim the world number one ranking, although he later loses it to Luke Donald.

June - Misses the cut in the defence of his US Open title. Then finishes a lowly 60th in the Open Championship at Lytham St Annes the following month.

August 12 - Lands the USPGA title at Kiawah Island, finishing on 13 under par to win by eight strokes.

Youngest players to win two majors

18 years 4 months - Young Tom Morris (Open 1868 and 1869)

20 years 5 months - Gene Sarazen (US Open and USPGA 1922)

20 years 11 months - John McDermott (US Open 1911 and 1912)

23 years 0 months - Seve Ballesteros (Open 1979 and Masters 1980)

23 years 3 months - Rory McIlroy (US Open 2011 and USPGA 2012)

23 years 7 months - Tiger Woods (Masters 1997 and USPGA 1999)

23 years 8 months - Willie Anderson (US Open 1901 and 1903)

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