McIlroy was tied for the lead with Vijay Singh when they returned Sunday. Twenty-seven holes later, McIlroy had no peer in the final major of the year.
When he won the U.S. Open last year, Padraig Harrington suggested that perhaps McIlroy — not Woods — might be the one to challenge the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. That looked like nothing more than one Irishman boosting another when McIlroy didn't come close in the next five majors.
"I think winning his second major is going to make things a lot easier for him," Harrington said. "I think last year he proved it, but there's been ups and downs since his last major win because of the pressure and the expectations and the hype. Now he's delivered again. It's going to be a lot easier for him going forward. And he'll get better."
Woods won his second major in his 12th try as a pro. McIlroy won his second in his 16th major.
"It's tough to say that Rory is a Tiger Woods type player," said Graeme McDowell, McIlroy's closest friend on tour. "Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime player, and Rory is at least a once-in-a-decade type player. He's that good. ... He's going to be a superstar of game, which he already is. But he's a real superstar now."
McIlroy went out in 33, saving par with a 10-foot putt on the ninth hole. That's what Woods used to do in the majors.
Poulter's birdie on the par-5 11th hole closed the gap to two shots, but not for long. From the sandy area short of the 10th green, McIlroy blasted out and closed his eyes when the wind blew sand into his face. He never saw the ball check a foot from the cup. And with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th, there was no stopping him.
The win ends a streak of the last 16 majors going to 16 different winners. McIlroy joined Woods, Harrington and Mickelson as the only players to win majors in consecutive years over the last two decades.
Carl Pettersson tried to put up a good fight, though he suffered a setback on the first hole without even realizing it.
The Swede drove just inside a red hazard line. He checked to make sure his club could touch the grass without grounding the club. That part was fine. However, PGA rules officials determined after scrutinizing a video replay that a small leaf that moved as Pettersson took back the club. That violates Rule 13-4c — moving a loose impediment while in a hazard — and three holes later he was informed it was a two-shot penalty. The par became a double bogey.
Pettersson responded with back-to-back birdies. By then, it was too late for Pettersson, really too late for anybody.
McIlroy might have won this major before breakfast.
He was among 26 players who had to return Sunday morning, playing the back nine to finish the storm-delayed third round. Tied with Vijay Singh at 6-under par, McIlroy missed two short birdie chances, and then made bogey on the 13th. He rebounded with birdies on the 15th and 16th, a tough bunker save on the 17th and a closing par for a 67 that gave him a three-shot lead.
Not once during the final round did the kid look like he was going to lose this one.
After going back to his island home for breakfast, a quick nap and a change of clothes — a bright red shirt, no less — McIlroy looked solid as ever. After pulling his approach on the par-5 second hole under a tree, he hit wedge off the wood chips to 6 feet for birdie. He came up just short of the green at No. 3, where the tees were moved up to play 293 yards, and hit an even better flip wedge to a tiny target on an elevated green. McIlroy holed a 15-foot birdie putt, and he was on his way.
As for the shirt?
McIlroy was planning to wear red, but only if he wasn't playing with Woods. He remembers Luke Donald in a red shirt while tied with Woods in the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah, which Woods won by five shots.
"I wasn't playing with him and thought I would wear it," McIlroy said. "Might have to do it from now on. No wonder he wins so much."