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McIlroy escapes with dramatic PGA title



Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy briefly was three strokes out of the lead on Sunday, but he made an eagle and two birdies on the back nine and rallied to win his second PGA Championship title.

McIlroy finished at 16-under-par 268. This was his fourth major championship, and third consecutive victory. He started the run with a win at the Open Championship and followed that with a victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

"It's been just incredible. 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. I just really gutted it out today. It was a little different than the previous major wins I've had," McIlroy stated at the trophy presentation. "I think I showed a lot of guts out there today to get this job done."

Phil Mickelson, the 2005 PGA Champion, fired a 5-under 66 and ended alone in second at minus-15.

Henrik Stenson also posted a 66, while Rickie Fowler closed with a 68. Stenson and Fowler shared third at 14-under 270. Mickelson, Fowler and Stenson had owned the lead most of the day, but couldn't keep pace with McIlroy down the stretch.

Play was finished in darkness as a 1-hour, 50-minute rain delay earlier in the day pushed things back. It was so dark on the final hole that Fowler and Mickelson let McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger hit their tee shots as they were walking down the fairway.

After Mickelson and Fowler reached the green, the final twosome again hit up in an effort to finish before complete darkness set in. Both were two back at that point and needed eagle to possibly force a playoff, but Fowler made par and Mickelson a birdie to end one back.

"I bogeyed 16 and that was a costly bogey in the end. It was a fun day for me to get in the mix and fun day for me to make some birdies and move up early so that I had a good chance on the back nine," Mickelson said. "I'm disappointed in the outcome. I thought that had I been able to finish those last five, six holes strong, it could have totally flipped the way I look at this year."

McIlroy, who led by two on the 18th tee thanks to a birdie at 17, found sand with his second. He blasted to 34 feet and 2-putted for par to win by one as Mickelson birdied the final hole to trim the winning margin.

"I want to thank Phil and Rickie for letting us play up because if they didn't it would have been a struggle for us to get finished. So that showed a lot of sportsmanship and class for those two guys," McIlroy commented on how the 18th played out. "So thanks very much. No, I wanted to win this thing (tonight)."

Jim Furyk (66) and Ryan Palmer (68) shared fifth place at 12-under 272.

Four-time major champion Ernie Els and Jimmy Walker both fired 6-under 65s to share low round of the day honors. The duo played together in the final round and finished alongside one another at 11-under 273.

They were joined in seventh place by Steve Stricker (68), Mikko Ilonen (69), Hunter Mahan (67) and Victor Dubuisson (66).

Fowler rebounded from an early bogey with four birdies in a 5-hole span. The last of those was a 5-foot putt at the par-5 seventh, which gave him the lead at 14-under. He parred the next two to remain there.

Stenson, in the third-to-last group, birdied the ninth to join Fowler in the lead. Mickelson, who was with Fowler in the penultimate pairing, drained a 10- footer for birdie on No. 9 to forge a 3-way tie for the lead.

Fowler converted a 28-footer for birdie on the par-5 10th to move one clear of the field at 15-under. That pushed McIlroy three strokes back, but the 2012 PGA Champion was about to make his move.

McIlroy dropped his second shot to the 10th within seven feet and he drained the eagle putt to jump within one of the lead.

Mickelson birdied the 11th to again join Fowler in the lead, then Stenson joined them at 15-under as he birdied the 13th. However, Stenson gave that shot right back at 14, and he closed with four pars in a row to end two back.

McIlroy rolled in a 9-footer for birdie on the 13th to grab a share of the lead with Fowler and Mickelson. But Fowler hit a poor tee shot at 14 and failed to save his par.

Mickelson drove into the left rough at 16 and came up short with his second. He chipped to 10 feet, but failed to save his par. Suddenly, McIlroy was back where he started the day - alone in the lead.

McIlroy dropped his approach from a fairway bunker at the 17th within 10 feet and he drained that birdie try for a 2-shot lead.

After Mickelson and Fowler teed off, they were walking to their tee shots and McIlroy teed off. McIlroy hung his drive to the right, but it stayed in the rough inches from a hazard.

Mickelson came up just short of the 18th green with his second, then Fowler found the front right side of the green. Those two walked to the green, then allowed McIlroy to play up.

McIlroy dumped his in a bunker.

Mickelson had his caddie tend the flag for his chip shot, and he nearly drained the chip. Mickelson's chip slid by the left edge and he tapped in for a closing birdie to get within one.

Fowler ran his long eagle putt past the hole, then his birdie try spun out as well. He tapped in for par to finish at minus-14.

"Obviously wanted to try and make three at the last. Tough to see the read. I thought the hill at first would kick it a bit more right, just didn't do that. Once it got through that, it didn't really kill as much speed, ended up a little ways by," said Fowler, who finished in the top five at all four major this year.

"This is probably the one that hurts the most for me with the majors this year. The first three were a lot of fun and obviously to be in great positions and to get great finishes. This one I felt like I could go out today and win it. I put myself in a good position."

It was all up to McIlroy. He left his sand shot 34 feet short of the hole. Needing to get down in two to win, McIlroy's birdie putt stopped less than a foot from the hole. He tapped in for his second straight major championship title and his fourth overall.

Early on, McIlroy fell off the pace with bogeys at three and six. He got one stroke back with a birdie on seven however. Pars at eight and nine left him three back, but he made a back nine charge to the title.

"The eagle on 10 was massive. I think the birdie on seven really settled me down. I started the round really tentatively. I just didn't have it," admitted McIlroy. "I sort of was trying to get through the first few holes making pars, while everyone was attacking. So that wasn't good. The eagle on 10 changed everything. Rickie holed that putt on 10 to go three ahead. To make that eagle to get within one was massive."

Fowler had bogeyed the second, then poured in three straight birdies from the third to grab a 1-shot lead. He couldn't keep up that furious pace though.

Mickelson had five birdies over the first 11 holes, but admitted he started to lose his energy after the 12th.

Stenson was four back to start the day, but he birdied all five odd-numbered holes on the front side. The last three of those all gave him a piece of the lead at the time, but he played the back nine in even-par to end two back.

NOTES: McIlroy earned $1.8 million for the win ... He now has nine wins on both the PGA and European Tours ... He is the fourth-youngest to win four major championship titles behind Tom Morris, Jr., Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods ... This is the third major championship he won by opening with three straight rounds in 60s ... Overall, he has won four of the last 15 majors contested ... The PGA Tour is in North Carolina next week as Patrick Reed is slated to defend his title at the Wyndham Championship, while the Made In Denmark is a new event on the European Tour.

08/10 22:18:41 ET

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