McIlroy PGA triumph consigns Woods, Wozniacki to the past
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman has golfing world at his feet after winning back-to-back majors
Rory McIlroy claimed a thrilling US PGA Championship in the gathering gloom at Valhalla to become the first man to win back-to-back majors since 2008 and establish himself as the new king of the fairways.
Before the tournament McIlroy had tried to quell talk of a new era in golf, but after a spectacular conclusion to the last major of the year there is no longer any doubt that he now dominates the sport.
The final act of the weekend, which saw McIlroy sink a ten-inch putt to secure the title as thousands of camera flashes illuminated the Valhalla twilight, was a "coronation", says CBS. And while the sun had set on Kentucky by the time the Northern Irishman was presented with the Wanamaker Trophy it was the "dawning of a new golfing era", says Ewan Murray of The Guardian.
"McIlroy's triumph was so brilliantly deserved given the epic battle he had on his hands when three shots adrift of Rickie Fowler with nine holes to play," writes Murray. "By the time this gifted Northern Irishman holed out for birdie at the 17th, he led by two and wasn't to be caught."
The 25-year-old "demonstrated an astonishing will to win to come from three strokes back", says Iain Carter of the BBC. "His eagle at the tenth showed him capable of golf beyond the rest of the field... It was the most thrilling major in recent years – McIlroy prevailed in near darkness and took a giant step towards golfing greatness."
Earlier in the day torrential rain had caused a two-hour delay and by the time McIlroy reached the 18th tee the light was failing. The fact he was able to finish the round was down in part to generous actions of Fowler and Mickelson, the pair in front of McIlroy, who stood aside to allow the leader to play up behind them.
Despite Mickelson's birdie at the last, McIlroy only had to hit par to win and the 25-year-old did so to become the third youngest player, after Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, to win four major titles.
Some bookmakers are offering odds of 2-1 that he will win more majors than Woods, who failed to make the cut at Valhalla, having won the last of his 14 titles back in 2008. And if McIlroy's win "doesn't convince you that golf can survive with or without Tiger Woods, then nothing will", says Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.
Next up for McIlroy is the Masters at Ausgusta next season. A victory there and he would become only the sixth golfer to have won all four majors.
Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 major wins remains unequalled, believes McIlroy could surpass him provided he dedicates himself to the cause. There is every sign that McIlroy will do that, says Oliver Brown in the Daily Telegraph.
"If he is sufficiently fortunate to have been born with one outstanding gift, then it is his imperative to derive every last drop from it," he says. "For the past two giddying months – ever since he split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, if we were looking for a trigger point – he has pursued that philosophy with a rare fervour."