As darkness fell over Valhalla, it was Rory McIlroy who shone brightest. The Northern Irishman battled back after losing the lead early in his round to win the PGA Championship by a shot, earning his fourth major crown at just 25-years-old.
McIlroy shot a three-under-par 68 to finish on 16-under for the tournament, edging out Phil Mickelson on 15-under, and Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler on 14-under.
The win at Valhalla was McIlroy’s third in a row, having wrapped up the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the Open Championship in his previous two events.
In contrast to his other major triumphs, where he had them sewn up with time to spare, this time the world No.1 had to come from behind to win, and hold his nerve during a two-hour rain delay, proving he has the mental toughness when tension grips hardest.
"I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top." - Rory McIlroy
“It is the most satisfying,” said McIlroy. “To win it in this fashion and this style, it means a lot. It means that I know that I can do it. I know that I can come from behind. I know that I can mix it up with the best players in the world down the stretch in a major and come out on top.”
With his victory, the world No.1 becomes the first player to win back-to-back majors since Padraig Harrington in 2008.
McIlroy saw his one-shot overnight lead disappear as he fell three shots behind Fowler after six holes. But an eagle at the tenth caused momentum to swing the Open champion’s way.
He birded the 13th for a share of the lead, before a bogey by Phil Mickelson allowed Rory McIlroy the outright lead for the first time in the final round since the second hole.
He then made a further birdie on 17, and closed out victory with a par down the last.
His PGA Championship win leaves him a Masters win short of the career grand slam, and as the young champion savoured the moments after victory, he couldn’t help but look ahead to next year’s trip to Augusta.
“All of a sudden, I’m a four-time major champion and going for the career grand slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is; not that I'm counting,” smiled McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy :: the new face of golf?
Rory McIlroy is the third youngest player in the modern era to win four-major titles. That success brings expectation and a place in the spotlight right at the top of the game.
When asked he if felt like he was now the face of the game, and if he felt the weight on his young shoulders, McIlroy seemed to welcome the spotlight.
“You have to accept that to have a run of golf like I've had, it's expected,” he answered. “You have to welcome it and I don't think you can see it as a burden.
“It's a great place to be in. To be the face of golf or one of the faces of golf, it's a big responsibility, but at the same time, I feel like I'm up to the task of handling it well.”