Rory McIlroy, despite his latest PGA championship win, might not yet have the kind of worldwide fame that Tiger Woods generated in the early part of his career. But with a few more incredible moments like the kind he produced on Sunday, McIlroy could become the next golfer to become a household name, even among those who don’t follow the sport.
Rory McIlroy came from behind on the back nine at the Valhalla Golf Club to win the 2014 PGA Championship, his second straight major title and third straight tournament win. The victory marked McIlroy’s fourth overall major championship title, making him the third-youngest player, at only 25 years of age, to achieve that many major wins, behind only Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
A Sunday to Remember
The win would be a big one for the 25-year-old Northern Irish golfer no matter the circumstances, but the way it happened could make it the stuff of legend. McIlroy has been red-hot in recent weeks, and went into Sunday in the lead yet again.
But a strong storm on Sunday delayed the start for the leaders, leaving the potential that the tournament might spill over into Monday. Once the day did begin for Rory, he got off to a shaky start: an early bogey combined with great play by Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson left him three shots behind heading into the final nine holes of the tournament.
But the race wasn’t over yet, and McIlroy put himself back into contention with an amazing eagle on the 10th hole. That reduced the deficit to one. And as other golfers started to err, McIlroy stayed steady. Mickelson fell back with a late bogey to give Rory the lead for good, and McIlroy extended that lead to two shots with a birdie on the 17th hole.
Darkness Adds Drama to Final Hole
Up two shots heading into the final hole is a great place to be, but there were a couple of twists remaining that threatened to make this a difficult finish. For one, the 18th hole at Valhalla is a par five, meaning that a “safe” par for McIlroy would still leave open the possibility that Fowler or Mickelson could tie him with an eagle.
But even more threatening was the fact that there wasn’t much daylight left. The sun had set on the final four players, and while there was still some light, it was the kind of conditions that professionals generally wouldn’t play in.
Still, the final groups pushed on. McIlroy hit two bad shots to start the hole, while Mickelson left himself in contention by posting a birdie after narrowly missing a chip-in for eagle. After getting onto the green with his third shot, McIlroy could have called the round for darkness and come back the next morning to finish up his potentially difficult putts. But he wanted to claim his victory then and there, and a great first putt set up a tap in to win the tournament in the dark.
McIlroy came into the PGA Championship as the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament on the heels of his last two victories, though he was still paying 5-1 before the event began. By the final round, McIlroy was paying less than even money, while Ricky Fowler was offering 5-1 and Mickelson was a 10-1 underdog to catch Rory and take his sixth major title.