LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bubba Watson turned the 2014 Masters into his Sunday stroll. Martin Kaymer lapped the field at June’s U.S. Open. Despite his big lead getting trimmed by day’s end, Rory McIlroy was never seriously threatened in the final round as he walked in the park at the British Open.
The PGA Championship made up for a major championship season devoid of drama with one waterlogged and wonderful Sunday.
That it ended with McIlroy making history, and rushing to beat darkness after a rain delay of 1 hour, 51 minutes, made it all the more memorable. Not that his shotmaking didn’t already do so.
Posting his third straight victory overall, McIlroy became the first since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win consecutive major championships. And, at 25, McIlroy became the third-youngest to win his fourth major overall behind the terrific twosome of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
McIlroy shot a 68 to finish 16-under overall, one stroke better than runner-up Phil Mickelson and two better than Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson.
The afternoon tee times got pushed back after a downpour soaked Valhalla with an inch of rain in less than an hour and workers scrambled to clear the course of casual water.
This delay created an almost unprecedented scene on the 72nd hole. McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger got permission from officials to hit their tee and second shots on the par-5 18th as the next-to-last group of Mickelson and Fowler walked to their shots so that the round could be completed.
This almost-staggered foursome gave McIlroy a bird’s eye view of Mickelson almost chipping in for eagle. McIlroy then two-putted for par in near-darkness after blasting out of a bunker to win.
“It’s been just incredible,” McIlroy said of his run. “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 think I showed a lot of guts.”
So steady all week, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first six holes to fall behind by as many as three shots on the front side. He didn’t card his first birdie until executing a delicate up-and-down on the par-5 7th.
Then came a shot for the ages.
Blasting a 3-wood from 281 yards on the 10th hole, McIlroy appeared to catch the shot slightly on the heel of his club. But his low runner ran alongside the left side of the hole and to within 7 feet. He drained the eagle putt.
McIlroy added a fist pump when he birdied the par-4 13th to tie the leaders at 15-under and added a birdie out of a fairway bunker on No. 17 after the other leaders stumbled.
Mickelson joined the leaders three times with birdies and stayed there with a 27-foot par putt on the par-4 12th. But after almost holing out a birdie chip on the difficult, par-4 16th, Mickelson missed the putt coming back for his first bogey in 21 holes.
“It was good for me to get back in the mix,” Mickelson said after a disappointing showing in this year’s majors. “I kind of ran out of steam.”
Fowler joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the modern era to post top-five finishes in each of the season’s majors. Nicklaus and Woods did so twice.
Fowler took the outright lead three separate times, including a chip-in on the par-4 5th and a 25-foot birdie on the par-5 10th. But his bogey after pulling his tee shot on the par-3 14th proved costly, dropping him out of the lead for good.
“This is the one that stings,” Fowler said.
Fowler didn’t end his dramatics, though. He impressively saved par on the 505-yard, par-4 16th after driving into the 15th fairway, hooking his approach around the trees and two-putting from 95 feet.
Henrik Stenson carded six birdies through his first 13 holes to pull even with the lead three separate times. But he three-putted the par-3 14th and never regained the lead.
McIlroy thanked Mickelson and Fowler for their sportsmanship in allowing his group to hit up on the 72nd hole and finish the round. And then McIlroy almost dropped the Wanamaker Trophy, a fitting end to a dramatic day.
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