himself in a five-way tie. Within an hour, he had lost the lead entirely, in part because of tentative and poor putting. When Fowler rolled in a 28-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th hole, McIlroy watched from the 10th fairway and knew he was now trailing by three strokes. Mickelson had passed him and held a two-stroke edge.
“The guys were lighting it up, and I wasn’t,” McIlroy said. “I was fully aware of what was going on. Standing in the 10th fairway, I wanted to just get a birdie to get some momentum.”
He was 284 yards from the hole and chose a 3-wood that he hoped to fly high and almost directly at the flag. “The shot I hit was about 30 feet lower than I intended to hit and about 15 yards to the left,” McIlroy said later with a laugh.
‘The ball bounced and rolled until it came to rest 7 feet from the hole. “I was lucky; I really was,” McIlroy said. “To win, sometimes you need a little luck. But that kick-started everything.”
McIlroy was the only player to reach the 10th green in two shots on Sunday and made the eagle putt to draw one shot behind Fowler.
The fierce competition continued unabated — Mickelson making a nearly impossible par save at the 12th and Stenson regaining a piece of the lead at the 13th, then giving it back with a botched short putt on the next hole. McIlroy missed a 6-foot birdie chance at the 12th, then made a 9-footer for birdie to tie Fowler and Mickelson for the lead.
The duck, dodge and charge continued until Stenson failed to capitalise on the easy birdie opportunity at the par-5 18th. On the 17th hole, McIlroy blasted out of a fairway bunker, left his ball 11 feet from the hole and made the putt for birdie and a two-shot lead.
Highly unusual moment
On the next hole, McIlroy did something highly unusual for tournament golf, let alone a major. He jogged ahead and joined Mickelson and Fowler, who had already hit their shots, on the 18th tee. McIlroy asked if he and his playing partner, Bernd Wiesberger, could join up and play the final hole as a foursome because of the enveloping darkness.
Any of the four golfers could have declared it was too hard to see and the tournament would have continued Monday. None came to that conclusion. “No way,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to win it today.”
After Mickelson and Fowler walked part of the way down the hole, McIlroy hit a driver just short of a water hazard. Then the group did play as a foursome. Mickelson almost chipped in for an eagle that would have tied him with McIlroy.
“It was really close, until it broke right at the end,” said Mickelson, whose biggest mistake was a bogey at the 16th hole. It is the second time Mickelson has finished second at the P.G.A. Championship. He has finished second at the United States Open six times.
Following Mickelson on the hole, continued…