It is safe to say Rory McIlroy is officially back.
McIlroy finally delivered on the potential he showed earlier in the season with an emphatic victory at the 2012 PGA Championship. He finished 13-under at Kiawah Island, eight strokes ahead of runner-up David Lynn. It represented the largest margin of victory at a PGA Championship, breaking a record of seven strokes set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980. McIlroy also became the youngest stroke-play winner in the history of the major.
The 23 year old golfer left nothing to chance with his weekend play and, along the way, eliminated any doubts that may have arisen concerning his game in recent months. Winning the way he did helped McIlroy accomplish two specific things. He showed he could bounce back from a bad round and he also bucked a recent trend of 54 hole leaders crumbling on the final day.
McIlroy started out strong and put himself into contention on the first day when he shot a 5-under 67. Things threatened to unravel for him a day later with a 3-over 75 that caused him to slip several spots down the leaderboard. McIlroy shook it off and came back with as impressive of a weekend as any put together at a major this year.
He was already strong in the third round before a weather delay forced it to be completed on Sunday morning before the start of the final round. McIlroy positioned himself nicely with five birdies in the front nine. When play resumed a day later after the delay, he caught fire. McIlroy birdied the 15th and 16th holes to close out the back nine on his third round.
Then, in the final round, McIlroy shot a blistering 6-under 66 to run away from the field. He sank back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes. McIlroy never carded a bogey during his final round and he put an exclamation point on his outing by sinking one last birdie on the final hole. He was the first major winner since Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters to go without a bogey over the final round.
Before Sunday, McIllroy's highest finish at a major in 2012 had been a disappointing 40th place. Now he is poised to reclaim the no. 1 world ranking he held earlier in the year. This time around, it feels different. McIlroy has positioned himself as an elite golfer on the PGA Tour for many years to come.
John Coon enjoys getting in a round from time to time in the Salt Lake City area when he is not covering golf as a freelance sports reporter.
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