SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Rory McIlroy never made a move in the final round of the PGA Championship. It almost paid off for him anyway.
McIlroy shot an even-par 72 as others around him faltered, and the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland finished tied for third at the PGA Championship for the second straight year at 10-under 278.
But this tournament was different. McIlroy wasn’t that close to the leaders at St. Andrews in this Year’s British Open or at Hazeltine in last year’s PGA. Here, he was within striking distance until the end.
“It’s the first time I have been in contention in the last round of a major and going out in the second-to-last group,” he said. “I was feeling it on the first tee and it was a new experience for me.”
McIlroy finished five strokes behind winner Y.E. Yang and three strokes behind Tiger Woods last year at Hazeltine. He finished third at last month’s British Open, eight strokes behind surprise winner Louis Oosthuizen.
On Sunday, McIlroy had a raucous crowd behind him, getting louder cheers than the leaders when he finished his round.
He moved to 11 under after a birdie on the 14th, but gave the stroke back the next hole and finished with three straight pars.
“I felt good over the putt on 15. I read it straight and just went more left to right than I thought,” he said. “The 5-iron on 16 I hit was a good shot, but the wind just didn’t touch it and the 5-iron on 17 as well, a couple of yards left and it is by the hole.”
McIlroy was pleased his birdies at Nos. 10 and 14 kept him close, but he said he’ll have a tough time forgetting his missed opportunity at 15.
In the majors this year, he missed the cut twice, before finishing tied for third at St. Andrews.
“St. Andrews was nice,” he said. “Top five here was not what I wanted, but I will take the positives out of this and there were a lot of positives. I will move on, have a week off and go into the playoffs in good spirits and hopefully give that a good run.”
And the budding star remains even hungrier for a breakthrough.
“I feel I am ready to win one,” he said.
RULES OF PLAY: Dustin Johnson’s two-stroke penalty assessed after completing his round for grounding his club in a bunker on the 18th hole came under the first rule of the PGA’s supplementary rules of play handed out to all golfers.
“1. Bunkers: All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”
ELKINGTON’S EFFORT: Steve Elkington, who won the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera in a playoff, came close to setting the record for longest stretch between majors.
The 47-year-old Elkington, who played with Tiger Woods on Saturday, was the one who contended on Sunday instead of the world’s No. 1 golfer. Not a bad performance for a guy who started this season without any status on the PGA Tour.
Elkington got within a shot of the lead with a birdie on the 16th to move to 11 under after missing a 15-foot eagle that rimmed the cup.
On 17, he went over the green into a bunker and made bogey, then had a long birdie putt on 18 that he left about 8 feet short. He missed again, finishing at 9-under 279 and in a tie for fifth.
While Elkington, a 10-time winner on tour, didn’t have status this season, he’ll certainly have it next year. His $270,833.33 pay check on top of the $667,660.47 he earned this year puts him easily in the Top 125 on the money list to secure his tour card.
TOP CLUB PRO: Rob Labritz was the only club pro among the 20 invited to the PGA Championship to make the cut even though he finished tied for last among those who reached the weekend at 7-over 295.
“The week was great,” he said. “Didn’t strike the ball as well as I had hoped, but it was great.”
Labritz missed the cut in his previous two PGA Championship appearances in 2002 and 2003. He said he’s working toward winning the National Club Pro.
“That’s been the next sort of goal,” he said. “I played for a living at one time, and I want to get back to playing. My expectations are higher.”
The 39-year-old Labritz, the director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., said he played full-time on the Canadian Tour. He was runner up at the 2005 Canadian PGA Tour Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship.
POULTER PULLS OUT: Ian Poulter of England withdrew from the final round of the PGA Championship because of a chest infection.
Poulter was at 5-over 221 after three rounds and said Saturday night on Twitter that he might not be able to play. Poulter was No. 3 in the European points standings for the Ryder Cup, with the top five qualifying, and was supposed to play with Jeff Overton, also virtually assured a spot in the Ryder Cup. Overton played alone, and finished his round in 2 hours, 9 minutes, to break the unofficial PGA Championship record for quickest round.
Phil Blackmar played his final round of the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in 2:10.
DIVOTS: Phil Mickelson finished 6-under 282 after a 67 on Sunday. It was the same score he recorded at the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. … Winner Martin Kaymer is the second German to win a major championship after Bernhard Langer. … An Australian online sports book refunded all bets on Johnson after the two-stroke penalty that cost him a spot in a playoff. … Thirty-eight players finished above par for the tournament, two more than 2004.