Sunday, February 18, 2018
Golf

Rory McIlroy runs away with PGA Championship

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy dressed the part as golf's next star and played like it, too.

Saving his bright red shirt for Sunday in the PGA Championship, McIlroy never gave anyone much of a chance. Two exquisite shots with the wedge set up back-to-back birdies to seize control of the final round. He never made a bogey over the final 23 holes of his marathon day.

McIlroy validated his eight-shot win at the U.S. Open last year by blowing away the field Sunday at Kiawah Island. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods, who always wears "victory red" on tournament Sundays, was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second.

"I think I heard Tiger say, 'You can have a good season, but to make a good season a great season, you need a major championship,' " said McIlroy, who returned to the No. 1 world ranking. "Now I've had two great seasons in a row no matter what happens from here in now."

Standing on the 18th tee with a seven-shot lead, McIlroy turned to caddie J.P. Fitzgerald and said, "I'm going to win this one by eight, as well."

After a roar on his way to the green from a gallery that chanted his name, McIlroy hit a 25-foot birdie, saving enough strength to lift the heavy Wanamaker Trophy after another Grand Slam command performance.

He shattered the scoring record at the 2011 U.S. Open. This time he broke Jack Nicklaus' record in the PGA Championship for margin of victory.

"It was a great round of golf. I'm speechless," McIlroy said. "It's just been incredible. I had a good feeling about it at the start. I never imagined to do this."

McIlroy took the lead for good Sunday morning with back-to-back birdies on the back nine to finish a rain-delayed third round at 67 for a three-shot lead. Only Ian Poulter got within two shots in the final round, and that only briefly. McIlroy finished with a bogey-free 6-under 66 for 13-under 275 total.

David Lynn, a 38-year-old from England playing in America for the first time, won the B-flight. He closed with 68 and was the runnerup at 283.

Woods was never a serious factor in closing with par 72. He failed to break par on the weekend in any of the four majors for the first time in his career.

After winning the Honda Classic in March to reach No. 1 for the first time, McIlroy missed four cuts in five tournaments as questions swirled about whether his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was hurting his game.

Instead, McIlroy put a big hurt on the best field of the year.

"I was a little frustrated with how I was playing earlier on in the year, but a few people in this room were probably pushing panic buttons for no reason," McIlroy said.

Poulter challenged early. He started the final round six shots behind and made six birdies through seven holes to get within two. But three straight bogeys on the back nine ended his bid as he settled for 69 and 4-under 284, tied for third with Justin Rose (66) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).

After the U.S. Open last year, Padraig Harrington suggested that perhaps McIlroy — not Woods — might be the one to challenge the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

Harrington marvels at what McIlroy has already done.

"He lapped the field and that's twice he's done that," Harrington said. "Quite impressive, isn't it?"

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