Rory McIlroy defied the dark and a world-class chasing pack to land his fourth major title in the 96th USPGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky

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Rory McIlroy defied the dark and a world-class chasing pack to land his fourth major title in the 96th USPGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.

The Ulsterman finished on 16-under-par for a one-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson, with Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler a shot further back on 14 under.

He’s now won three tournaments on the bounce – following triumphs in The Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – and joined Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones as the only players to win four majors at 25 or younger.

“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this,” said McIlroy.

“I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today.”

After a deluge of rain pushed back tee times by an hour and a half, a number of players came flying out the blocks as Valhalla was subjected to a plethora of birdies.

Henrik Stenson birdied three of his first five holes, Phil Mickelson made birdies at one and three and Rickie Fowler bounced back from a bogey at the 2nd with three consecutive birdies from the third.

After McIlroy missed a six-footer for par on the par-3 3rd to become the only player in the top 30 to be over par for the day, he found himself one behind.

And the situation was worse when he stood in the 10th fairway.

Up ahead, Fowler rolled in a 28-footer for birdie to move to 15-under-par, three clear of McIlroy.

But he rose to the occasion, hitting a slightly fortuitous 3-wood to 7 feet before holing the putt for eagle to give himself some much-needed impetus.

His found his feet on the back nine, narrowly missed birdie putts at 11 and 12 but rolled in an 8-footer on the 13th to move back into a share of the lead.

Ahead, Stenson missed a tiddler at 14 for a first bogey of the day, Fowler dropped a shot at the same hole and Mickelson watched an 8-foot par putt slide past the hole on the 16th.

McIlroy played those holes with consummate ease, and holed a 10-footer on the 17th after a brilliant approach from sand to move two clear.

By this time Valhalla was shrouded in darkness, and the two final groups made their way up the 18th together.

Mickelson and Fowler weren’t able to make much-needed eagles, allowing McIlroy to make a simple par and cement his status as one of the game’s true greats.

Another player who sits in that category – Tiger Woods – missed the cut comfortably and still appeared to be troubled by a lingering back injury, leading many to question if Rory is the heir to Tiger’s throne.

Credit must also go to Fowler, who finished inside the top 5 in every major this season. It will be little consolation right now, but a major victory for the 25-year-old looks inevitable.

USPGA Championship
Valhalla Golf Club, Kentucky
August 7-10

1) Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66-67-67-68 = 268 $1,800,000
2) Phil Mickelson (USA) 69-67-67-66 = 269 $1,080,000
T3) Rickie Fowler (USA) 69-66-67-68 = 270 $580,000
T3) Henrik Stenson (SWE) 66-71-67-66 = 270 $580,000
T5) Jim Furyk (USA) 66-68-72-66 = 272 $367,500
T5) Ryan Palmer (USA) 65-70-69-68 = $367,500
T7)Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 69-68-70-66 = 273 $263,000
T7) Ernie Els (RSA) 70-70-68-65 = 273 $263,000
T7) Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 67-68-69-69 = 273 $263,000
T7) Hunter Mahan (USA) 70-71-65-67 = 273 $263,000
T7) Steve Stricker (USA) 69-68-68-68 = 273 $263,000
T7) Jimmy Walker (USA) 69-71-68-65 = 273 $263,000

Bold signifies Titleist golf ball usage