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Magnificent McIlroy clinches epic US PGA victory

ESPN staff
August 11, 2014 « Brook: I can stop Porter in the first round | Wenger: Chambers can offset Vermaelen loss »
Rory McIlroy lifts the Wanamaker Trophy as US PGA champion for the second time in his career © Getty Images
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Rory McIlroy held off the challenges of Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson on an astonishing final day of the US PGA Championship.

McIlroy, who becomes the first player since fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back majors, began the rain-delayed final round at Valhalla one shot clear but spent much of it chasing after he made a bogey at the third as his rivals rolled home birdies.

But a phenomenal 280-yard 5-wood at the par-five 10th set up an eagle which kick-started the comeback - and as Fowler and Mickelson carded bogeys at 14, McIlroy was rolling in a birdie behind them at 13 to regain the lead.

Rory McIlroy celebrates as his birdie putt at 13 falls into the cup © Getty Images
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The lead soon became two when McIlroy dropped a 9-iron to 10 feet and found the middle of the cup to move to 16-under. Fowler and Mickelson, who spent most of the round leading, could do nothing as McIlroy swooped to snatch the Wanamaker Trophy in near darkness.

"It's just incredible," McIroy said during the trophy presentation. "I didn't think in my wildest dreams I'd have a summer like this. I've just played the best golf of my life and I think I showed a lot of guts out there today to get this job done."

When asked about the unusual finish that saw the final two groups play the final hole together, he added: "I actually want to thank Phil and Rickie for letting us play up with them as otherwise it would have been a struggle for us to get finished. It showed a lot of class and a lot of sportsmanship from those two guys so thanks very much.

"I wanted to win this thing and get out of here. It [the visibility] was tough, especially with the bunker shot [at 18], the depth perception with the sand made it a little difficult so I decided to just chunk it out there and take my two putts and run."

Mickelson's wait for a sixth major championship goes on, as the popular American failed to capitalise on a front-nine 31 and a further birdie at the 11th that saw him crash the party at the top of the leaderboard.

"I'm disappointed that after 11 my round kind of stalled," said Mickelson, who carded one birdie, one bogey and five pars in his final seven holes.

"I wasn't able to take advantage of some birdie opportunities. I didn't hit some of my best shots and then that bogey at 16 was costly. Nothing about it was hard, the chip shot was easy and I just botched it, I tried to get the tee shot in the fairway with a 3-wood and missed it by a foot. It just was a bad bogey. I needed to finish off the round and I didn't quite do it.

"The people here have been great. They were great at the Ryder Cup in 2008, it's a great place to come and play golf. I hope the PGA finds its way back to this great place in the future."

For Fowler, an unwanted record. The exciting young American becomes the first player in the modern era to finish in the top five of all four majors in a single year without winning.

Final US PGA Championship leaderboard

Rory McIlroy and JP Fitzgerald share a fist bump after the extraordinary eagle at the 10th © Getty Images
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