THERE’S no doubt the finish to the 96th US PGA Championship will go down as one of the more unusual, and controversial, endings in majors history, which is a shame given the quality of the golf served up.
Not since the 2011 US Masters had the golf public been treated to a dogfight as epic as what unfolded at Valhalla with as many as five players holding the lead at once during various points of the final round.
But the last 30 minutes of this PGA will be remembered for the truly bizarre sight of the final two groups all but merging to play the 72nd hole virtually together as a foursome, an unprecedented move in one of the game's Grand Slam events.
Rory McIlroy arrived on the 18th tee with a two shot lead over Mickelson having just made a spectacular birdie at 17 only to find the penultimate group hitting their tee shots.
It is unclear whose idea it was but with darkness rapidly closing in, McIlroy and playing partner Bernd Wiesberger hit from the 18th tee while Mickelson and Fowler waited in the fairway.
The real controversy, however, came a few minutes later when Fowler and Mickelson were told to wait before hitting their third shots while the final pair hit their seconds.
Mickelson, though he played it down afterwards, seemed particularly unhappy with that instruction and was even heard remonstrating with a TV cameraman as he left the 18th green.
Fowler admitted afterwards that "we weren't planning on them hitting the approach shots while we were up there” though immediately went on to praise McIlroy's play in recent weeks and at no time suggested the unusual circumstances had an effect on the outcome.
The scene around the final green was a curious one as all this unfolded, Mickelson almost holed his third shot to get to 16-under and tie McIlroy, while the Irishman's ball lay in the greenside bunker and the man himself strode up the fairway to the green.
With Mickelson's miss McIlroy could afford three to get down, which was lucky because it was virtually dark by the time he played his trap shot to 40 feet.
A brilliant lag to tap in range guaranteed the victory and McIlroy graciously thanked Mickelson and Fowler for their sportsmanship afterwards.
"I actually want to thank Phil and Rickie for letting us play up with them as otherwise it would have been a struggle for us to get finished,” he said.
“It showed a lot of class and a lot of sportsmanship from those two guys so thanks very much.”
"I wanted to win this thing and get out of here. It [the visibility] was tough, especially with the bunker shot [at 18], the depth perception with the sand made it a little difficult so I decided to just chunk it out there and take my two putts and run."
There's no denying, however, the outcome might have been different had things played out differently and it seems likely this is one finish that will be talked about for a while to come.
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