It was well past gloaming at the PGA when Rory McIlroy won his second straight major and the fourth of his career.
Even if it was hard to see, there was no doubt the fans in Louisville saw something special.
If this victory wasn't a coronation of Rory McIlroy as one of the game’s all-time greats, he can certainly lay claim to being one of golf’s greatest young players.
He is the third-youngest player to win four majors in the modern era (since the inception of the Masters). He is the fifth player to win multiple majors in the same season at age 25 or younger. He is also the fourth player to win multiple PGA Championships before age 30.
And looking at the careers of the players he's being listed with, it's safe to say he's far from done.
Youngest players to win four majors in the modern era
|Tiger Woods||24 years, six months, 24 days||2000 British Open|
|Jack Nicklaus||25 years, 2 days, 21 months||1965 Masters|
|Rory McIlroy||25 years, 3 months, 6 days||2014 PGA Championship|
|Seve Ballesteros||27 years, 3 months, 14 days||1984 British Open|
Multiple professional majors in one year at age 25 or younger
|2014||Rory McIroy||25||British Open, PGA Championship|
|2000||Tiger Woods||24||U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship|
|1963||Jack Nicklaus||23||Masters, PGA Championship|
|1926||Bobby Jones||24||U.S. Open, British Open|
|1922||Gene Sarazen||20||U.S. Open, PGA Championship|
Players with two PGA Championships before age 30
|Rory McIlroy||2012, 2014|
|Tiger Woods||1999, 2000|
|Gene Sarazen||1922, 1923|
|Walter Hagen||1921, 1924|
McIlroy didn't run away from this field the way he did at his first two majors (2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship), or even his win at the 2014 British Open, where he held a six-stroke lead entering the final round, but he was never really threatened despite a two-stroke victory.
No, this time McIlroy had to claw his way through 72 tough holes, and made his way back from a three-stroke deficit midway through Sunday.
That comeback began with a birdie on the seventh hole, but really took flight on the par-5 10th hole when he hit a line drive with a fairway wood on his second shot that landed less than 10 feet from the hole.
McIlroy made the putt for eagle. It was a far cry from the first time he played the 10th (a double-bogey 7 on Thursday) and began what would be another back-nine charge for McIlroy.
He shot 32 on holes 10-18 Sunday and finished at 12-under for the week on the back, a set of holes that included six of the week's eight toughest holes.
It was the performance of the week on the back and it's worth noting that the last two PGA winners at Valhalla (Mark Brooks in 1996 and Tiger Woods in 2000) also led the field in back-nine scoring.
Scoring breakdown by nine among the PGA Championship leaders
|Player||Front nine||Back nine||Total|
McIlroy was the longest hitter off the tee at Valhalla, and he also nailed his approach shots, finishing fifth in the field in proximity to the hole on approach shots. He was also in the top 10 in the field in driving accuracy (hitting 41 of 56 fairways) and scrambling, where he missed the green and still made par or better almost three-fourths of the time.
Statistics for the leaders at the PGA Championship
|Player||Distance||Accuracy||GIR||Prox. to hole||Scrambling||Str. gained/putt.|
|315.6 (1)||73.21% (T-10)||69.44% (T-14)||30' 2" (5)||72.73% (T9)||1.093 (12)|
|290.8 (34)||62.50 (T-48)||63.89 (T-42)||32' 3" (17)||69.23 (T-19)||1.703 (6)|
|290.6 (35)||71.43 (T-17)||70.83 (13)||35' 9" (46)||71.43 (T-12)||2.291 (1)|
|302.6 (6)||67.86 (T-32)||66.66 (T-30)||34' 10" (36)||70.83 (14)||1.057 (13)|
McIlroy joined Tiger Woods (2000 and 2006) as the only players to win the Summer Slam (British, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA) since the WGC events were created in 1999. He also joins Woods and Padraig Harrington as the only players since 1999 to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same year.
Players who have won the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same year
McIlroy's victory shouldn't detract from what Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler accomplished at Valhalla. It was the ninth runner-up finish in a major for Mickelson, and it was enough for him to qualify for his 10th U.S. Ryder Cup team. For Fowler it was the fifth time this year he finished in the top five in a major championship, something only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have done in the past.
Most runner-up finishes in majors
Players with top-five finishes in all four majors in one year
|Year||Player||Masters||U.S. Open||British Open||PGA|