KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy repelled an early onslaught by Ian Poulter before cruising to his second major title by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship on Sunday.
The 23-year-old McIlroy, who started the final round with a three-shot lead, needed only 23 putts as he carded a flawless 6-under-par 66 that gave him a 13-under total of 275 in the year’s last major.
The world No. 3 sank a 20-foot putt from just off the green to birdie the par-four 18th in glorious late afternoon sunshine at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, then lifted his putter skyward in celebration.
“I don’t think I have let it sink in yet, but it was a great round of golf,” the mop-haired Northern Irishman said after being presented with the Wanamaker Trophy. “I am speechless. It’s been an incredible week. I had a good feeling about it at the start and I never imagined to do this.”
His victory margin eclipsed the previous best set by golfing great Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 PGA Championship in Oak Hill and underlined his burgeoning status as heir apparent to former world No. 1 Tiger Woods.
McIlroy, who clinched last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional by a staggering eight shots, rattled up six birdies in a bogey-free display and will regain the No. 1 spot when the world rankings are issued today.
David Lynn, competing in his first PGA Championship, birdied two of the last three holes for a 68 to finish alone in second.
Poulter, who briefly trimmed McIlroy’s lead to one shot after a sizzling five-birdie start, faded after the turn en route to a 69 and a tie for third at 4-under.
Level with Poulter were Justin Rose (66), Carl Pettersson (72) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).
Four-time champion Woods, hunting for his 15th major crown but his first in over four years, had to settle for a share of 11th place at 2-under after signing off with a 72 on Sunday.
Woods, who had been tied for the lead heading into the weekend for a second time in the last three majors, said he had ultimately paid the price for a relaxed strategy going into the third round where he bogeyed four of his first eight holes.
“I was right there ... but I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday,” Woods said after offsetting two birdies with two bogeys in the final round. “And I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that’s not how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me.”
Woods, however, paid tribute to McIlroy.
“He’s very good,” he said. “He’s got all the talent in the world to do what he’s doing.”