Rory McIlroy held off a brave challenge from Ryder Cup teammate Ian Poulter to win the US PGA Championship in record-breaking fashion at Kiawah Island.
The 23 year old Northern Irishman claimed his second Major Championship, like his first, by eight shots, although the final margin of victory did not do justice to the extraordinary challenge Poulter mounted.
However, while the flame was being put out at the London Olympics, McIlroyÂs talent shone like a beacon at Kiawah Island in South Carolina as he returned to World Number One by adding the US PGA title to his US Open Championship last year.
The first came by eight shots and so did the second, this time a championship record margin over England’s David Lynn in what was the performance of his life.
This one also had the added satisfaction of leaving Tiger 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.
After winning the first tournament to have 99 of the Official World Golf Ranking’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. On 18 I was just taking the whole thing in. I didn’t allow myself to think about it until the 18th.
ÂI said Âalright, I still have a long way to go. I still have to keep in the present, keep hitting my shotsÂ. I allowed myself the luxury of walking up 18 knowing that I was going to win. I enjoyed the moment, just let it all sink in.Â
It was England’s 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 Tournament 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 the biggest cheque of his career – $865,000.
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 Championship, 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.
ÂI thought if I was playing with him, I wouldn’t wear it,Â he added. ÂObviously him, you know who him is.
ÂIt was in the script that Oakley sent me at the start of the week. If I was going to be paired with him today, I wasn’t going to wear red.
ÂI remember what happened to Luke Donald in 2006 at Medinah [he finished six shots behind winner Woods, having started the final round level]. I wasn’t playing with him and thought I would wear it – might have to do it from now on; no wonder he wins so much!Â
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.
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.”