USPGA Championship Golf: Rory McIlroy hits back to win second major
Only a month after people were asking what had gone wrong, Rory McIlroy last 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 No 1 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 No 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.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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