Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy recovered from a stumbling start to overcome a series of challengers and clinch his fourth major title by a shot at the PGA Championship today.
A stroke in front of the chasing pack overnight, the Northern Irish world No 1 lost the lead early today, but regained control after the turn, signing off with a three-under-par 68 at Valhalla Golf Club for a 16-under total of 268.
Phil Mickelson, the 2005 winner, birdied 18 to finish alone in second with a closing 66, with Swede Henrik Stenson (66) and American Rickie Fowler (68) a stroke further back in third.
''I didn't think in my wildest dreams I'd have a summer like this,'' British Open champion McIlroy told CBS Sports after being presented with the coveted Wanamaker Trophy, which he hoisted high in celebration.
''I've just played the best golf of my life and just really gutted it out today.
''It was a little different from the previous major wins that I've had and I think I showed a lot of guts out there today to get this job done.''
Trailing by three at one point, McIlroy got within a stroke of the lead with a spectacular eagle at the par-five 10th where he hit his second shot from 281 yards to seven feet, before effectively sealing the title with birdies at the 13th and 17th.
In gathering gloom at Valhalla, where play was suspended for just under two hours earlier in the day due to water-logged conditions, McIlroy parred the last to win his third consecutive title on the PGA Tour, and his second major this year.
The 25-year-old, who won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah by a record eight shots, became the fourth youngest player to land four majors, with only Tom Morris Jr, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods ahead of him.
Mickelson, who had been bidding for a sixth major title, recorded his first top-10 finish on the 2013-14 PGA Tour after a disappointing season.
''It was good for me to get back in the mix and to feel the pressure and get in the thick of it,'' said the American left-hander.
''I kind of ran out of steam there after 12, wasn't able to get a couple of birdies coming in like I needed to.''
With birdies abundant on a receptive, rain-softened layout, the galleries were treated to a breathtaking display of shot-making in the final round.
However, the late starters faced a race against darkness in their bid to finish the 96th PGA Championship. Play had been halted just before noon Sunday (NZT 4am Monday) as heavy rain swept across the par-71 Valhalla layout, leaving rivers of water on several fairways and pools covering many greens.
Roughly 25mm of rain had saturated the course by the time play resumed at 2.44pm (NZT 6.44am Monday) and with dusk fast approaching a day's extension to finish seemed likely.
After the rain, workers brought out squeegees, trying furiously to push standing water off the course. Towels were used to dry the tee boxes.
About 25mm of rain fell in 45 minutes, but it took longer to get the course back in playing shape. The sun came out after the rain passed, giving it the feel of a sauna as the temperature climbed toward 27 degrees Celsius.
During the 1-hour, 51-minute delay, ducks wallowed in an impromptu creek running down the middle of a fairway. Sergio Garcia rolled up his pants and fled to the cover of the clubhouse, splashing along the way.
Rickie Fowler had some fun with Billy Horschel, who was walking around barefooted, having removed his soaked socks and shoes.
Players weren't happy with the sodden conditions today and complained about not being allowed to use preferred lies on the muddy course.
''The ball should have been played up, simple,'' Graeme McDowell said.
''It's casual water everywhere. The ball is picking up mud. Common sense has to prevail at some point. Let's lift, clean and place this thing.''
Ian Poulter said today he had to take relief on nearly fairway because of standing water. Twice, he had to place his ball in the rough to get a dry spot.
Colin Montgomerie, who had to finish the 18th hole after the rain delay, noted that the British Open used a two-tee start in the third round for the first time in its 154-year history.
He said the PGA of America made a mistake by not doing the same, which would have provided more leeway to complete the round.
''Nobody wants to be here Monday - nobody,'' Montgomerie said.
He said it was clear the PGA had to revise the schedule to send off the final group by 4.19pm (NZT 8.19am Monday) to have any chance of finishing, even though the course was ''borderline''.
The remaining tee times were compressed to nine-minute intervals, instead of 10.
''They either go now or they don't finish,'' Montgomerie said.
- Reuters, AP
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