Rory McIlroy says he is playing “the best golf” of his life and enjoying a summer beyond his “wildest dreams” after securing the US PGA Championship.
The Open champion, 25, landed his second major in as many months – and says he will celebrate at Manchester United’s opening Premier League match.
“I’ve got a week off now and I’m going to enjoy it,” McIlroy told BBC Sport.
“I don’t know if I can parade both the Claret Jug and the Wanamaker Trophy at Old Trafford on Saturday. I’ll try!”
McIlroy, a United fan, will watch them play Swansea City fresh from winning his fourth major.
He said the manner of his latest victory was particularly satisfying.
“I gutted it out,” McIlroy, who wrapped up victory in the gathering gloom by one shot, explained. “It was different from my previous major wins.
“To win my second major this year and a fourth by the age of 25, it’s just incredible.
“I’m going to celebrate and share it with the people who are close to me. I’ll be back home in Northern Ireland at the end of the week.
“I’m going to go to Old Trafford and watch the first game of the season on Saturday, and bring the [Open trophy] Claret Jug with me. That will be a great thrill.”
Rory McIlroy – A year of change
|January – August 2013||January – August 2014|
Sandwiched between McIlroy’s major wins this year came victory at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and he justified his favourite tag in Kentucky to win the US PGA by the single-stroke advantage he held at the start of Sunday’s play.
His win, a fourth in 2014, is in marked contrast to his form of 12 months ago, when he was winless at the same stage of the season.
After a high-profile split with tennis-star fiancée Caroline Wozniacki in May, McIlroy won the BMW Championship at Wentworth within a week and his sensational form since has seen him reclaim the world number one spot.
“Winning the Open was huge for me and I said I wanted to back it up,” added the Northern Irishman.
“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I would have a summer like this. I just played the best golf in my life.”
His latest win means McIlroy has equalled the number of majors won by Jack Nicklaus at the same age, although he has some way to go to threaten the American’s record total of 18.
But the Northern Irishman’s quest for a fourth major and second US PGA Championship stuttered on Sunday when he was the only player in the top 20 of the field to shoot over par on the front nine.
Wet conditions made the 2008 Ryder Cup course “as gettable as a major course will ever be”, according to South African Ernie Els – and Phil Mickelson’s four birdies by the turn gave him hope of reclaiming a title he won in 2005.
“I am disappointed in the outcome,” said Mickelson, who finished one stroke behind McIlroy on 15 under, but earned his first top-10 result of the season. “If I could have finished the last five or six holes strong it could have flipped the way I feel about the whole year.
“My game is starting to come around a little bit. Next year is what I’m looking in on. It’s where we start our points for the Olympics, which I’m keen on.”
Golf will make its debut at the 2016 Rio Games, along with rugby sevens.
Mickelson, whose birdie on 18 gave him second place outright, is now guaranteed a place on the United States team for September’s Ryder Cup meeting with Europe at Gleneagles.
McIlroy’s win at Valhalla…what they tweeted:
|Nine-time major winner Gary Player: “Lights out. Congratulations Rory McIlroy on your fourth major at the PGA Championship. Great back nine. True grit. Respect. My very best. GP”|
|Two-time Open Champion Greg Norman: “Out of darkness comes the brightest star in the future of golf. Congratulations Rory McIlroy. You seized the moment at the right time.”|
|Four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero: “I was glued to the TV…they mainly talk about his driving but the strength of mind he showed is incredible!! Rory McIlroy is a great champion.”|
Sharing third place were Swede Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler. The American became only the third man in the modern era to finish in the top five of all four majors in a season, joining Tiger Woods and Nicklaus.
Despite his consistency, Fowler awaits a first major victory and boasts only one PGA Tour win in his career.
“This is probably the one that hurts the most for me this year,” said the 25-year-old after his three-under-par final round. “This one I felt I could go out and win it.”
Sunday’s play looked under threat early when early torrential rain caused a near two-hour delay, which prompted Els to call for an abandonment.
The four-time major winner said he had never seen such a wet course, but still raised hopes of becoming the first man to shoot 62 at a major championship with a stunning five under on the opening nine holes.
“On nine I said to my caddie let’s get to 14 under. I felt my game was in such good shape,” said Els, who missed a series of birdie putts on the back nine to end on 11 under.