Rory McIlroy’s second successive Sunday charge in a major ended in disappointment as the US PGA Championship headed for a tense climax at Southern Hills.
McIlroy finished runner-up in the Masters thanks to a closing 64 at Augusta National, a round which culminated in wild celebrations from the four-time major winner after he holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole.
In stark contrast, McIlroy’s closing 68 in Tulsa was followed by him declining to speak to waiting reporters before quickly collecting his belongings from the locker room and heading to his car.
The reaction was understandable given that McIlroy had enjoyed a one-shot lead following an opening 65 from what proved the favourable side of the draw.
A second round of 71 was far from disastrous, but Saturday’s 74 left him nine shots off the pace heading into the final round, a deficit he swiftly reduced thanks to four birdies in a row from the second.
The par threes have been McIlroy’s undoing however – the 33-year-old playing them in five over par in round three even with a birdie on the 14th – and the sixth cost him another shot on Sunday after missing the green and hitting a poor chip to 20 feet.
Good birdie chances went begging on the ninth, 12th and 13th and McIlroy’s faint hopes were ended with a bogey on the short par-four 17th.
Chile’s Mito Pereira had taken a three-shot into the final round but was just one ahead of Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young with four holes to play, with former world number one Justin Thomas and England’s Matt Fitzpatrick just two off the lead.
Fitzpatrick’s chance looked to have disappeared as he bogeyed the 10th and 11th, but the 27-year-old from Sheffield chipped in for birdie across the 15th green to revive his hopes.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood had set the clubhouse target on three under after five birdies in six holes from the 12th gave him a closing 67, but said he had not contemplated his total being good enough to win or get into a play-off.
“I’m going to be happy wherever I finish,” Fleetwood said. “I’ve never thought it was enough but it was great to have what’s going to be my best result of the year so far in a major.”
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