LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rory McIlroy stood over a 10-inch putt in gathering darkness to win the PGA Championship as flashes from thousands of cameras lit up Valhalla Golf Club like a rock concert.
People wanted to capture a moment from golf’s latest coronation.
In perhaps his biggest test, top-ranked McIlroy played his best golf Sunday to win his second straight major and further establish himself as the sport’s next superstar.
And what a stage.
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The final major of the season was pure theater with an All-Star cast — Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson all with a share of the lead on the back nine. The final two hours were filled with eagles and birdies, tension and chaos.
McIlroy, a 25-year-old from Northern Ireland, never had to sweat so much to win one of golf’s biggest events. And that is what made this major so much sweeter than the previous three he won.
“It is the most satisfying,” this year’s British Open champion said. “To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot. It means that I know that I can do it. I know that I can come from behind. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top.”
The final par — the easiest shot he faced all day — gave McIlroy a 3-under 68 to outlast Mickelson (66) by a stroke and beat the darkness that threatened to spoil this show. He became the fourth player in the last century to win at least four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, three of the game’s greatest players.
Boy Wonder appears on his way to belonging in that group.
“I didn’t think, in my wildest dreams, I’d have a summer like this,” said McIlroy, the seventh player to win the last two majors of a season. “I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today.”
He finished at 16-under 268, the lowest score to win the PGA in 13 years, and earned $1.8 million.
But one of the greatest shows on soggy turf had a peculiar ending.
Three shots behind as he stood in the 10th fairway, McIlroy got back in the mix with a 3-wood from 281 yards into 7 feet for an eagle. He took the outright lead when all three of his challengers eventually made bogeys, and finally gave himself some breathing room.
With a 9-iron from a fairway bunker to 10 feet for a birdie on the 17th, McIlroy took a two-shot lead going to the par-5 closing hole.
Because of a two-hour rain delay earlier, visibility was a factor.
McIlroy was allowed to hit his tee shot on No. 18 before Mickelson and Fowler had reached their drives. Both were two shots behind. McIlroy came within a yard of putting his ball in a hazard right of the fairway.
PGA of America officials let McIlroy hit his second shot, meaning Mickelson and Fowler had to stand to the side of the green.
“We were cool with hitting the tee shot,” Fowler said. “We weren’t expecting the approach shots.”
Fowler missed a short birdie putt attempt that cost him his third straight runner-up finish in a major. Mickelson’s chip was inches from dropping for an eagle that would have tied him for the lead.
Kevin Chappell (68), who owns a home in Kirkland, tied for 13th place at 10 under. Ryan Moore (74) of Puyallup tied for 41st at 2 under.
• In order of points earned, the nine automatic berths on the 12-man U.S. Ryder Cup team go to Bubba Watson, Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson. Moore was 11th in Ryder Cup points.
• Mirim Lee won the Meijer LPGA Classic for her first LPGA Tour victory, beating fellow South Korean Inbee Park with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff in Belmont, Mich.
Lee closed with a 2-under 69 to match Park (70) at 14-under 270 for 72 holes. Lee, 23, earned $225,000 for the victory.
Jimin Kang (73), a graduate of King’s High in Shoreline, tied for 42nd at 1 over.
• Kristen Gillman, a 16-year-old from Austin, Texas, won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, beating Canadian Brooke Mackenzie Henderson 2-up in the 36-hole final at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.
|The 25-year-old Rory McIlroy is the fourth player in the last century of golf to win at least four majors at age 25 or younger:|
|Bobby Jones||1923 and 1926 U.S. Opens, 1926 and 1927 British Opens|
|Jack Nicklaus||1962 U.S. Open, 1963 and 1965 Masters, 1963 PGA|
|Tiger Woods||1997 Masters, 1999 and 2000 PGA, 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 British Open|
|Rory McIlroy||2011 U.S. Open, 2012 and 2014 PGA, 2014 British Open|
|Notable: Tom Morris Jr. and Willie Anderson also accomplished the feat in between 1868-1905.|