Rory McIlroy wins USPGA title at Kiawah Island by eight shots
Only a month after people were asking what had gone wrong, Rory McIlroy on Sunday night proved everything is all right by storming to his second major - and at a younger age than Tiger Woods managed it.
While the flame was being put out at the London Olympics, the 23-year-old's talent shone like a beacon at Kiawah Island in South Carolina as he returned to world number one by adding the USPGA title to his US Open last year.
The first came by eight shots and so did the second, this time a championship record margin over England's world number 98 David Lynn in what was the performance of his life.
This one also had the added satisfaction of leaving Woods trailing in his wake.
Closing with a 66 to follow a 67 earlier in the day - the third round had to be completed first - McIlroy, who admitted during the summer that he may have taken his eye off the ball during a run of four missed cuts in five starts, becomes the fifth youngest player in history to win two majors.
The only four to beat him were Young Tom Morris nearly 150 years ago, John McDermott just before the First World War, Gene Sarazen just after it and Seve Ballesteros.
The previous biggest margin was Jack Nicklaus' seven strokes at Oak Hill in 1980.
Joint halfway leader Woods, who missed McIlroy's initial success in Washington through injury, finished down in 11th place, his Sunday destined to be remembered most for him being attacked by a prickly pear cactus.
It was England's Ian Poulter who staged a stirring last-round comeback that threatened for a while to turn the final major of the season into a thriller, but in the end it was 38-year-old Lynn, playing only his second major and with one victory in 370 European Tour events, who finished strongest to claim the runner-up spot and with it a debut in the Masters next April.
Lynn was always there or thereabouts during the week - a week that also nearly brought an early demise when he came close to stepping on an alligator - and birdies at the 16th and 17th meant he walked away with a cheque for over £557,000.
He has also leapt into the reckoning for the Ryder Cup with two weeks of Europe's race to go.
Poulter birdied the first five holes, six of the first seven and from six shots behind teeing off narrowed his deficit to just one.
Runner-up to Padraig Harrington in the 2008 Open, Poulter's burst came unstuck on the back nine, however, and he had to settle for a share of third with another Englishman, Justin Rose, Swede Carl Pettersson and defending champion Keegan Bradley.
Pettersson was not going to forget the tournament in a hurry either.
Leader after an opening 66, joint top at halfway and still in with a great shout setting off for the closing 18 holes three behind, he suffered a two-stroke penalty on the first.
His drive was pushed into the edge of a hazard and in playing his second shot he disturbed a leaf on his takeaway and was told about the penalty two holes later after it had been reviewed by officials.
Pettersson still managed a front-nine 34, but McIlroy bettered that by one and his extra birdies at the 12th and 16th put the icing on the cake of a majestic display - notably wearing a red shirt that is normally just Woods' domain.
Poulter's performance was guaranteeing him another Ryder Cup cap next month, but Harrington was left needing a wild card when, having moved into joint fourth, he slipped back with three back-nine bogeys.
After winning the first tournament to have 99 of the game's top 100 in it McIlroy said: "I don't think I have let it sink in yet.
"It was a great round of golf - I am speechless.
"The game-plan was just to play solid. I got off to a bit of a shaky start, but settled into it and I thought my putting today was phenomenal.
"Thanks dad and thanks mum - I'm sure she's watching at home. I had a good feeling at the start, but I never imagined doing this.
"It means an awful lot to look at the names on that trophy and put mine alongside them."
Lynn said: "To get in the Masters is just a dream come true, obviously. Amazing.
"I saw Rory at 11 (under) and I thought he's not going to mess up from there. It was just a case of playing for as good a position as I could.
"I've never been exempt to play in anything in America before (he qualified by breaking into the world top 100), so that's the reason why I've never been over here.
"This is a good start!"
Poulter said after his 69: "I guess it was a dream start. I guess I pushed him (Rory) and I guess I ran out of steam at the end.
"It was a great day. It's just a shame I couldn't quite finish it off."
Woods said: "I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday. I was too relaxed and tried to enjoy it and that's not how I play.
"I play intense and full systems go. That cost me."
Harrington said: "I played well this week. Lots of good things. Lots of positive things."
And maybe, following a fourth place in the Masters and eighth at the US Open, his joint-18th finish could still lead to a Ryder call-up like two years ago.
On McIlroy, the Dubliner - winner of the same trophy in 2008 - said: "I said when he lost at the Masters (a closing 80 from four ahead last year) that he could challenge Jack's record.
"Now he's won one each of the last two years. To get to Tiger's 14 or Jack's 18 you really do have to start doing it when you're in your early 20s.
"He has another 20 years, maybe another 25 years."
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)
Ireland's winners in majors
By Mark Garrod
Just over five years ago, no Irish golfer had won a major since Fred Daly in the 1947 Open, but how times have changed. Starting at the 2007 Open, Padraig Harrington won three out of six, and then Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy - both from Northern Ireland, like Daly - won back-to-back US Opens. Darren Clarke followed that up by triumphing at the 2011 Open and McIlroy secured his second major with the 2012 USPGA crown at Kiawah Island.
We look back at the major triumphs:
2007 OPEN - Harrington was six behind Sergio Garcia with a round to go at Carnoustie and, after charging into contention, double bogeyed the last. Garcia, though, bogeyed it to fall into a tie and the Dubliner birdied the first extra hole, then held on. "I never let myself think I had just thrown away the Open on the 18th," he said afterwards.
2008 OPEN - Harrington, doubtful beforehand because of a wrist injury, played a brilliant back nine highlighted by an eagle on the 17th for a four-shot win over Ian Poulter at Birkdale. He became the first European to retain the title since James Braid in 1906. "It's a lot shinier than I remember," he said of the trophy he had handed back at the start of the week.
2008 USPGA - Garcia and Harrington went head to head again at Oakland Hills and the result was the same as Europe's 78-year wait for a winner of the title was ended. Harrington birdied the 17th - Garcia was closer and then missed - and a 15-footer at the last secured victory. "I'm actually disappointed I'm seven months away from the next major," Harrington said.
2010 US OPEN - Tony Jacklin was the last European winner of the trophy in 1970 and with Dustin Johnson three clear at Pebble Beach after 54 holes it did not look good again. But Johnson had an early triple and double bogey, and eventually crashed to an 82 while world number 37 McDowell held his nerve. "Careers are defined by major championships and my career's off and running today," he said.
2011 US OPEN - Two months after a closing 80 when four ahead at the Masters, McIlroy started at Congressional with a 65. From three in front he went six clear with a 66, then eight ahead with a 68, setting 36-hole and 54-hole records. No nightmare this time, though, as an eight-shot victory ensured the trophy headed straight back to Northern Ireland. "At Augusta it was all a bit new to me. I have a clear mind now," said the 22-year-old.
2011 OPEN - Northern Ireland's Clarke became the oldest winner of the Open Championship since 1967 with a brilliant final round at Royal St George's. Clarke, then 42, took a one-shot lead into the last day and repelled the challenge of American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with a closing 70 in tough conditions. His five-under-par total left him three clear of Mickelson. "It's just incredible," he said. "We're blessed to have two fantastic players in Rory and G-Mac and I'm just the old man coming along behind them."