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2014 US PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy wins by single shot
Rory McIlroy tamed Valhalla as he made it a fourth major win with a one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson.
The Northern Irishman endured poor from on the front nine which saw him surrender a one-shot overnight lead, before charging home on the back nine for a spectacular three-under 68 – to win by one from American Phil Mickelson, who shot a very good closing 66.
McIlroy followed up from victory in the Open at Royal Liverpool last month to become the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back majors.
And the moment McIlroy lofted the Wanamaker Trophy overhead, it marked a milestone in the Nike Golf player’s career as he became the third youngest player after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to attain four majors; just one less than the total won by the late, great Steve Ballesteros and two behind Nike Faldo.
It was also the fourth time that McIlroy had held the 54-hole lead in a major event. The first led to heartbreak in the 2011 Masters when he was four ahead entering the final round at Augusta only to fall apart with a closing 80.
Two months later, McIlroy bounded back in fine style to win the US Open by eight shots at Congressional before winning the 2012 US PGA by the same margin at Kiawah Island.
His excellent form continued through last month, where he led from the start at Royal Liverpool, taking a six-shot lead into the final round before eventually going on to win by two at the expense of TaylorMade’s Sergio Garcia and Cobra’s Rickie Fowler.
Drama in the rain
Last night was about as dramatic as they come – a remarkable rain-drenched final day which finished in near darkness – with the lights blazing from the clubhouse behind the 18th green.
Fowler and Henrik Stenson had formed part of a three-way tie for the lead, with Callaway Golf’s Phil Mickelson on the back nine. But they dropped shots on the closing stretch to end their game’s two behind McIlroy on 14 under.
The course was bombarded by a torrential downpour which flooded the green and pooled inside bunkers, causing a delay of almost two hours. This meant that play was then a race against time to get everyone finished, to the extent that Mickelson and Fowler stood aside on the 18th to allow the final group to tee off.
McIlroy hit a drive that finished dangerously close to water on the right of the fairway, but a closing par five from a greenside bunker was enough for the 25-year-old to secure his second US PGA title.
A step closer to greatness
Earlier, Rory had dropped two shots in his first six holes and trailed the impressive Fowler by three as he reached the turn. His struggles were made all the more evident when Fowler recovered marvellously from a bogey on the second with four birdies in his next five holes.
The par-five 10th had cost McIlroy a double-bogey seven on Thursday but three days later he blasted a fairway wood to seven feet and holed the eagle putt to move back into contention in style.
Mickelson, not wanting to be outdone, then birdied the 11th to join his playing partner Fowler in the lead, with the pair exchanging fist-pumps as they walked to the 12th tee, and then Stenson made it a three-way tie with a birdie of his own on the 13th.
Stenson needed to be thankful when his approach carried the water, only to then three-putt the next to drop out of the lead and effectively end any hopes of becoming a major winner for the first time.
McIlroy was getting into his stride again, but missed great birdie chances on the 11th and 12th, the latter of which seeing Mickelson in the group ahead hole from 30 feet across the greens for an unlikely and exciting par.
However, the world no.1 made no mistake from eight feet on the 13th to power back into a share of the lead with five holes to go.
And the pressure finally became too much for the shoulders of Rickie Fowler to bare, and he cracked with a wayward tee shot that led to a bogey on the 14th. Mickelson then bogeyed the 16th to allow McIlroy to gain the outright lead for the first time since the third hole.
In fading light, McIlroy delivered the killer blow with a superb birdie from nine feet on the 17th to revel in a two-shot lead as he entered the last.
Mickelson appeared unhappy with being asked to make way for McIlroy on the 18th but almost holed his pitch shot for an eagle, with the ball forcing McIlroy to make par for the win.
A “gutsy” performance
Speaking to Sky Sports after his victory, McIlroy said: “It’s been just incredible.
“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this. I’ve played the best golf of my life.
“I really gutted it out today, this was a different way to win a major.
"The other three were quite comfortable but I really had to dig deep today.”
Rory McIlroy’s Winning Bag
DRIVER: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour Driver
FAIRWAY WOOD: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Fairway Wood
IRONS: Nike VR Pro Blade
WEDGES: Nike VR Forged
PUTTER: Nike Method 006 Prototype
BALLS: Nike RZN Black