McIlroy raises a few roars around Southern Hills before US PGA challenge peters out

Four straight birdies early on hinted at a miracle comeback before putter went cold

The enigma showcased itself once again. If his opening salvo of this 104th US PGA Championship – a stunning 65 in the first round – had proved to be yet another false dawn, with the light disappearing in the subsequent two rounds as he played his way out of the title race, there was an early final-round charge from Rory McIlroy that had briefly hinted at some miracle comeback.

Although 10 shots behind 54-hole leader Mito Pereira at the start of the final day's play, McIlroy put on a swashbuckling display in his opening run of holes with four straight birdies from the second to the fifth that had the roars of the fans at Southern Hills sounding around the course as to herald each deed of a comeback for the ages.

There was his approach to 15 feet from the rough on the second. He nailed the putt. A wedge approach from 123 yards on the third to six feet. In. A 25-footer on the fourth, which he sank. And a lovely bunker shot from a greenside bunker on the fifth to five feet to finish off the spectacular run that had the Northern Irishman leapfrogging his way up the leaderboard.

Then, a poor tee shot on the par-three sixth, which missed the green right, and then his failure to get up and down to save par put an end to the magic.


And, with that, his putter too turned cold. McIlroy had numerous chances to add further birdies in an effort to get back into the game but, time and time again, his ball shaved the hole and refused to drop. After each putt, McIlroy’s bemusement would manifest in staring at the line and shaking his head in wondering how the ball had not done as commanded.

McIlroy’s body language on the short par-four 17th showed his frustration when, after driving just short of the putting surface, his short chip ran over the green and down the slope and he added a further bogey to his round in ultimately signing for a 68 for 278, two under par, which moved him into the top 10.

A case of what might have been, the final round providing a microcosm of the tournament itself for McIlroy, his drought since his last Major success, in the 2014 US PGA Championship, continuing, but this time so disappointing having got off to a terrific start when leading after the first round only to follow up that 65 with 71 and 74 to slip behind and then that final round charge petering out.

McIlroy isn't playing in this week's Charles Schwab and is set to return to tournament action at next week's Memorial Tournament and then play the Canadian Open as part of a run-up to next month's US Open at Brookline.

Shane Lowry closed out his tournament with a 69 for 282, which at least had the effect of moving him to tied-23rd. His round was a remarkable one in that it featured 17 pars and a lone birdie from 15 feet on the par-three 11th. Lowry managed to keep big numbers off his scorecard but could only find that one birdie in his round.

Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament after a third round 79, which was his highest ever score in the championship. Visibly in pain through Saturday's play, Woods had complained of being "sore" after his round and then officially announced his withdrawal after the final group completed play.

It was just Woods’s second ever withdrawal from a Major championship, having previously being forced out of the 1995 US Open after injuring his wrist while hitting a shot out of rough in the second round of that event. Woods, who has been receiving ongoing treatment on his right leg, is set to assess his wellbeing with his medical team with the hope he can play in the US Open in a month’s time.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times