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Published: Monday, 8/13/2012

McIlroy claims 2nd major

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rory McIlroy celebrates after sinking a final putt to wrap up the PGA Championship, which he won by a record eight strokes. Rory McIlroy celebrates after sinking a final putt to wrap up the PGA Championship, which he won by a record eight strokes.
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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Right down to his red shirt, Rory McIlroy looked every bit the part of golf's next star in another command performance at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy validated his record-setting U.S. Open win last year by blowing away the field Sunday at Kiawah Island. One last birdie from 25 feet on the 18th hole gave him a 6-under 66 for an eight-shot victory, breaking the PGA Championship record for margin of victory that Jack Nicklaus set in 1980.

The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland returned to No. 1 in the world, and he became the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second major.

Just like the U.S. Open, this one was never seriously in doubt.

McIlroy seized control with back-to-back birdies Sunday morning to complete the storm-delayed third round with a 67 and build a three-shot lead. No one got closer than two shots the rest of the way, and McIlroy played bogey-free over the final 23 holes of a demanding Ocean Course.

David Lynn, a 38-year-old from England who was playing in America for the first time, won the B-flight. He closed with a 68 and was the runner-up.

Woods, who shared the 36-hole lead for the second time this year in a major, was never a serious factor. He tossed away his chances Saturday before the storm blew in and never could get closer than four shots. He closed with a 72, failing to break par on the weekend in any of the four majors for the first time in his career.

If there was a signature shot for McIlroy at Kiawah Island, it might have been Saturday when his tee shot lodged into a tree on the third hole. He only found it with help from the TV crew, took his penalty shot, and fired a wedge into 6 feet to save par.

McIlroy also won the U.S. Open by eight shots, the kind of dominance that Woods has displayed over so many years.

By winning the PGA Championship, he is halfway home to the career Grand Slam.

"It was a great round of golf. I'm speechless," said McIlroy after hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy. "It's just been incredible. I had a good feeling about it at the start. I never imagined to do this."

Winning the final major the year ends what had been a tumultuous season for McIlroy. Despite winning the Honda Classic in early March, he went into a tail spin by missing four cuts over five tournaments, as questions swirled that his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was hurting his game.

Instead, McIlroy put a big hurt on the strongest field of the year.

"He's very good. We all know the talent he has," Woods said. "He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers."

McIlroy finished on 13-under 275.

Ian Poulter put up the stiffest challenge, though not for long. Poulter, who started the final round six shots behind, made six birdies through seven holes to get within two shots. He made three straight bogeys on the back nine and had to settle for a 69. He tied for third at 4-under 284, along with Justin Rose (66) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).

In the final qualifying event for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, nothing changed.

Phil Mickelson was holding down the eighth and final spot, and he stayed there when neither Bo Van Pelt nor Steve Stricker could make a move on the back nine. Davis Love III will announce four captain's picks in three weeks.

McIlroy was tied for the lead with Vijay Singh when he returned Sunday. Twenty-seven holes later, he had no peer in the final major of the year.

When he won the U.S. Open last year, Padraig Harrington suggested that perhaps McIlroy -- not Woods -- might be the one to challenge the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. That looked like nothing more than one Irishman boosting another when McIlroy didn't come close in the next five majors.

But now?

"I think winning his second major is going to make things a lot easier for him," Harrington said. "I think last year he proved it, but there's been ups and downs since his last major win because of the pressure and the expectations and the hype. Now he's delivered again. It's going to be a lot easier for him going forward. And he'll get better."

The win ends a streak of the last 16 majors going to 16 different winners. McIlroy joined Woods, Harrington, and Mickelson as the only players to win majors in consecutive years over the last 20 years.

"It means an awful lot to look at the names on that trophy, and to put my name alongside them is very special," McIlroy said.

He said earlier in the week that he only wanted to give himself a chance, to feel that buzz of being in contention in the final round. He wound up putting the buzz back into golf, a sport in which all the talk has been about parity. McIlroy's name on the leaderboard means something.



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