KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy avoided the curse of the Sunday major collapse in the most effective way possible – keep increasing the distance to the chase pack.
Tied for the lead when the PGA Championship’s suspended third round resumed Sunday morning, McIlroy moved three shots in front to start the final 18 and shrugged off an early charge to capture his second major crown by a record eight shots.
“I’m just speechless,” said the Northern Ireland pro, who went bogey-free across the Ocean Course with a 6-under-par 66.
“It’s been an incredible week. I had a good feeling about it at the start, but I never imagined to do this.”
An 18-foot birdie at No.18 provided the final flourish, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ mark for the largest winning margin in PGA annals, set in 1980 at Baltusrol. McIlroy also romped by eight when he won last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional.
At 23 years, 3 months, McIlroy also became the sixth-youngest to capture two majors – just behind Nicklaus, who was 23 years, 2 months when he won the 1963 Masters. And McIlroy is 125 days younger than Tiger Woods when he made the 1999 PGA his second major crown.
The victory lifted him back to No.1 in the world rankings, dethroning Luke Donald. He also became the first of the past 16 major winners to capture another – a run going back to Padraig Harrington’s 2008 double at the British Open and PGA.
“He’s lapped the field twice now,” Harrington said. “I don’t know how many times Tiger did it, but that’s quite impressive, isn’t it?”
In the past 14 majors, just three winners had closed the door after taking a lead into the final round. Each of this year’s other majors had seen the winner come from off the pace – Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open) didn’t lead lead until they were back at the clubhouse.
Ian Poulter threw down a challenge when he began his final round with five consecutive birdies and six in his first seven. But he never got closer than two shots, then gave back ground with four bogeys in his last six holes.
The English pro wound up with a 3-under 69, nine shots back in a tie for third.
“It was the dream start, exactly what I needed to do try to chase down Rory,” Poulter said. “Got on the board and I guess that kind of pushed him on. And I ran out of steam towards the end.”
McIlroy completed four rounds in 13-under-par 275, including two 67s and Sunday’s 66. England’s David Lynn, a special invitee after cracking the world’s top 100, wound up second after a Sunday 68.
“It’s a great achievement. It’s not sunk in properly yet, to be honest,” said Lynn, who was playing just his second major and first since the 2003 British Open. He’ll get a third next spring, earning a Masters invitation with a top-4 finish.
Justin Rose (66), Carl Pettersson (72) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68) joined Poulter at 4-under.
Woods, tied for the lead after two rounds, wound up 11 shots back after a closing 72. He’ll remain stuck on 14 majors through another winter, a drought dating back to his 2008 U.S. Open crown at Torrey Pines.
More disconcerting, perhaps, is that Woods failed to break par on the weekend at any of the four majors. It’s happened only once in his past 14 weekend rounds – a Sunday 67 at last year’s Masters.
“Overall I’ve just got to make a couple of fine-tunings,” Woods said, “and I’ll be where I want to be the rest of the year.”