PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy is happy with his golf game after the PGA Championship, and one unfortunate shot won’t change that.
The defending champion tied for eighth, seven strokes behind winner Jason Dufner, by far his best showing at a major this year.
In a season without any titles, he gave himself an outside shot at victory with two late birdies Saturday. And as McIlroy stood on the fourth green Sunday, that chance didn’t look so crazy. He had a 4-foot birdie putt that would have moved him to 5 under, but missed it.
Hope wasn’t lost after he hit his drive on the par-4 fifth hole into the fairway. All it took was one swing of the club for that to change.
McIlroy’s second shot hit the green, but it trickled down a slope and into a hazard, After a penalty drop, things didn’t improve.
His fourth shot sailed over the green. His chip reached only the collar. His putt from 20 feet just missed, and when McIlroy tapped in, he had a triple-bogey 7 and tumbled to 1-under par.
“I hit a good shot,” he said. “I did exactly what I wanted to do, but it was in the exact wrong place.”
McIlroy finished with a 70 to close at 3 under.
Considering he was in danger of missing the cut midway through the second round, the PGA could go down as the moment that McIlroy rediscovered his game and his optimism.
FROM A TINY ACORN …
Most major champions are happy to bring back a check, a gleaming trophy and great memories from their breakthrough wins.
PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner went one better.
His wife, Amanda, said her husband had a feeling he’d do well at the tough Oak Hill course. So, in the middle of the second round Friday, when he was shooting a record-tying 63, he walked over to the gallery ropes and handed over a couple of acorns he’d picked up. The plan was to plant them on a 50-acre site near Auburn, Ala., where the couple is building a home.
Amanda said neither she nor her husband are gardeners. So to be sure, the Dufners also spoke with the club’s general manager and arranged to have a sapling from Oak Hill shipped to the new homesite as well.
“So at least that one will take root,” Dufner said. “I will have some trees out there, and it will be a neat experience — first major championship at Oak Hill and hopefully, have some of their oak trees out there on the property.”
For the second straight year, no player shot a lower aggregate score in the four majors than Adam Scott.
He looks at that stat two ways. Either he should have won more than one title in that span, or he’s right where he wants to be.
The 2013 Masters champ shot an even-par 70 in the final round to tie for fifth at the PGA Championship, five strokes behind Dufner.
“Obviously, the goal was to win one, but the real goal is to put myself in this position a lot more and play,” the Aussie said.
Funny how one victory can transform perceptions of near-misses. When Scott lost a four-shot lead with four holes to play in the 2012 British Open, he was a guy who folded under pressure. Then came his title at Augusta in April. Now he looks like a guy who’s always in contention.
“Obviously, I’m peaking at the right times,” Scott said.
Tim Clark had the only ace of the tournament, knocking a 220-yard shot at the 11th on Sunday. … Phil Mickelson, coming off his victory at the British Open, finished the PGA near the bottom after a final-round 72. “I didn’t play very well the last two weeks,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about it.” He plans to take off several days before starting preparations for the FedEx Cup playoffs.