Rory McIlroy's Major Wins
The Northern Irishman's four Major wins came within the space of as many years - but how did he achieve them?
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Rory McIlroy has four Major wins in a hugely successful career that continues to underscore his reputation as one of the most talented players of his era.
However, despite the Northern Irishman being one of the most consistent performers in the game - as evidenced by the fact that he’s only rarely slipped outside of the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking since 2010 - each Major win came within the space of less than four years between 2011 and 2014. Here is the story of how each came about.
2011 US Open
McIlroy had already served the world notice of his burgeoning talent in 2009 when he finished tied for 10th in the US Open and tied for 3rd in the PGA Championship to add to his win in the Dubai Desert Classic in the same year.
However, it was in 2011 when a fresh-faced McIlroy claimed his first Major in style when he cruised to victory in the US Open at Congressional. So dominant was McIlroy that he broke 11 US Open records over the weekend, including the lowest total under-par with his 16-under eight-shot victory over Jason Day.
McIlroy started well and simply kept going. He took advantage of the rain-softened terrain to finish three shots clear of Charl Schwartzel and YE Yang after the first round, and he extended the lead to six after the second day despite a double bogey to complete his round. McIlroy followed that up with a 68 on the Saturday to extend his lead to eight, and he was in no mood to relinquish it in the final round, posting a 69 to claim his maiden Major and prize money of $1.44m.
2012 PGA Championship
In 2012, McIlroy endured three underwhelming Major performances, finishing tied for 40th at The Masters, missing the cut in his defence of the US Open title and finishing tied for 60th in the 141st Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes. However, he saved his best until last in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
Rounds of 67 and 75 after the first two days kept McIlroy in contention and tied for fifth, before another 67 in a weather-affected third round saw him sweep into a three-shot lead ahead of Carl Pettersson in a round he finished on the Sunday.
McIlroy then carried that form straight into the final round later that day, with his best of the lot – 66, to win by a record eight shots (bettering Jack Nicklaus’ seven-shot win in 1980). That included a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole, confirming that McIlroy was a man for the big occasion, and taking him to World No.1 for the third time that year.
2014 Open Championship
A relatively subdued Major year in 2013, where McIlroy’s best performance was a tie for eighth in defence of his PGA Championship title, gave way to fireworks in 2014. Once again, McIlroy’s opening performances in that year’s Majors didn’t really hint at what was to come, with a tie for eighth at Augusta National and a tie for 23rd in the US Open at Pinehurst No.2.
That July, though, McIlroy put his mark on the Open at Royal Liverpool from the start. He had a one-shot lead going into the second round and never looked back, extending it to four shots over Dustin Johnson by the end of the second day. That grew to a six-shot lead over Rickie Fowler going into the final round, where a 71 was enough for McIlroy to win by two and claim the coveted Claret Jug.
2014 PGA Championship
The year got better for McIlroy. Valhalla was the venue for the 2014 PGA Championship and this time, McIlroy struggled to shake off the challenge of the chasing pack after he opened up a one-shot lead going into the third round.
However, closing rounds of 67 and 68 to add to an equally consistent first two days saw him clinch the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time with a one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson. After the tournament, five-time PGA Championship winner Nicklaus said: "Rory is an unbelievable talent. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 Majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing.”
It is perhaps hard to believe that, so many years on, McIlroy has yet to get nearer to Nicklaus’ prediction. He has come mightily close on several occasions, though, most notably when he tied for second in the 2018 Open and runner-up in the 2022 Masters after a barnstorming performance in the final round. It also looked like he would end his Major drought later in the year in the 150th Open at St Andrews, although, in the end, Cameron Smith had other ideas and McIlroy had to settle for third.
Perhaps the one Major the majority of fans – and McIlroy himself – would most like to see is a win in The Masters, which would see him stand alongside only five other players with a career Grand Slam. For now, the wait for the Green Jacket goes on. However, given McIlroy's relatively young age and hugely consistent form, it could yet still be just a matter of time.
Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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