CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy shot a course record 10-under-par 62 on Sunday to win the Quail Hollow championship by four strokes and enhance his reputation as one of the brightest emerging talents in professional golf.
The Briton blew away a top-quality field which included Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to become the youngest player since Woods to win on the PGA Tour, finishing at 15-under after a masterclass of shotmaking on a notoriously difficult course.
“Ever since I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be a professional golfer and you know it’s been a crazy ride to this point,” McIlroy told reporters after sealing victory two days before his 21st birthday.
“I’m going to have a bit of a party on Tuesday night.”
Mickelson, chasing back-to-back titles after winning the U.S. Masters last month, closed with a 68 to finish outright second at 11-under while Angel Cabrera of Argentina also carded a 68 to finish third, a further shot back.
Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge was fourth and Bo Van Pelt fifth as overnight leader Billy Mayfair fell out of contention after shooting 76, but no-one could keep pace with McIlroy.
“I thought a 68 would be good enough,” Mickelson said. “But I’ve got to congratulate Rory, you just never expect something like 62.
“He’s an incredible player, just an amazing talent.”
Woods limped out of the tournament on Friday after failing to make the cut for only the sixth time as a professional, raising questions about how long he can continue to dominate the game after the sordid revelations about his extramarital affairs.
Mickelson is rapidly closing in on the number one ranking and on the same day McIlroy won his maiden title in the U.S., 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa shot a 58, the lowest single round score on any of the major golf tours, to win in Japan.
“He’s the guy that we followed and the guy that we turned on our TV and the guy that we went out to practice so hard,” McIlroy said.
“All the younger guys have flourished at such an early age because Tiger set the benchmark so high.”
McIlroy has been earmarked for greatness since his early teens and won his first European PGA title in Dubai last year but his final day at Quail Hollow was undoubtedly his finest performance to date.
He almost missed the cut himself, scraping in by a single stroke Friday after making an eagle at his third last hole, but fired a 66 on Saturday to give himself an outside chance of winning.
He started the final round four shots off the lead in a tie for seventh but stormed to the top of the leaderboard with eight birdies and an eagle.
He completed the last six holes in just 18 shots, making an eagle at the par-five 15th when he drilled a five iron from 206 yards to within four feet then draining a 43-foot putt on the last to break the previous course record by two shots.
“To cap a day off like that was probably fitting, it’s one of those moments that you’ll always remember,” he said.