Nicklaus hails McIlroy’s poise in claiming fourth Major
18-time Major winner thrilled by final round of US PGA at Valhalla
Rory McIlroy hits his final drive on the 18th hole at Valhalla on his way to claiming a one-shot victory at the US PGA Championship. Photograph: Erik S Lesser
Jack Nicklaus has hailed the “poise, confidence and determination” that Rory McIlroy showed in claiming a fourth Major title with his exhilarating US PGA Championship win at Valhalla on Sunday night.
The 18-time Major winner admitted he was transfixed by the sporting theatre played out over a final day that saw an almost two-hour rain delay and which finished in near darkness with McIlroy tapping in a par putt on the 18th to win by one shot from Phil Mickelson.
The 25-year-old from Holywood in Co Down becomes the third youngest player to win four Majors after Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and the first winner of back to back Majors since Pádraig Harrington in 2008. It was also McIlroy’s third straight win after also claiming his first World Golf Championship title at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Writing on Twitter, Nicklaus revealed how Sunday’s final round had captivated him.
He wrote: “It was really a great tournament. It was great theatre. Great golf, actually.
“It was one of the best tournaments to watch – because of such good play – that I have seen in a long, long time.
“He played well all the way down the stretch, until he couldn’t see at 18. No one could.
“So let’s just discount what happened at 18, because I just thought Rickie was terrific.
“Then Rory, who got three shots down, showed so much poise, confidence and determination coming down the stretch.
“The tee shots he hit (on Sunday), wow. Early on, Rory was just playing along and couldn’t get anything going (two over after six holes).
“All of a sudden, everybody else was getting something going.
“Then Rory got the right break at the 10th hole with a great shot – he made the right break at 10 with that second shot (to set up eagle). He was off and running from there.”
Graeme McDowell believes Rory McIlroy can win as many Major titles as he wants, as long as he remains healthy and motivated.
He will travel to Augusta next April seeking to complete the career Grand Slam, not to mention remaining on course to hold all four Major titles at the same time.
Woods is the only player to achieve that feat by winning the US Open, British Open and US PGA in 2000 and the Masters in 2001.
“It’s beginning to look a little Tiger-esque I suppose,” McDowell said of McIlroy’s winning streak.
“I said at the Open I didn’t think we were going to see someone creating their own kind of Tiger-esque era just yet. I’m not eating my words but guess you could say I’m certainly starting to chew on them right now. When the kid is playing well, he’s pretty tough to live with. It’s pretty special stuff.”
McIlroy admits that his split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki has proven to be good for his golf, winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth just days after calling off their wedding and reaping the rewards of making golf his number one priority.
“He says that he’s sort of tied up a lot of his loose ends off the golf course,” McDowell added of his former stablemate. “Loose ends is not a very nice term to put your personal life and I don’t mean it like that, but he seems to be in a very good place.
“He’s an incredible player and when he’s in this type of mood, he’s pretty tough to beat.”
Asked if McIlroy could match Woods’s total of 14 Majors or the 18 of Nicklaus, former US Open champion McDowell added: “Not many people are born with the type of focus Tiger Woods had, growing up with pictures of Jack Nicklaus on his wall and wanting to beat Jack’s record.
“Knowing Rory as I have the last few years, it didn’t seem to me like he was trying to beat Jack’s record. So it’s a case of how the guy continues to motivate himself. You don’t know what the number is. It’s however many he wants. He’ll win as many Majors as he wants, within reason.
“Rory has obviously got himself in amazing shape physically now as well and it’s just a case of how fit and healthy he can stay. No doubt the game is more physical now. We are seeing more withdrawals and back injuries and neck injuries and stuff going on with guys than we ever have.
“To me, it’s 10 per cent staying healthy and 90 per cent how many he wants to win.”
President Michael D Higgins sent his congratulations to McIlroy and believes the golfer can provide inspiration for generations of young people not just in Ireland, but around the world.
President Higgins said: “I wish to extend my best wishes and congratulations to Rory McIlroy on his remarkable win yesterday evening at the 96th US PGA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. To win a second major championship and to regain number one position in the world in the space of a few weeks is an outstanding achievement which has been warmly cheered on by young and old on our island.
“Rory is capturing the imaginations of people, not just across the island of Ireland, but all around the world. I wish this talented and inspiring young sportsman continued fulfilment and success into the future”.