KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Rory McIlroy hit off wood chips and out of sand. He even stuck one shot in a tree branch -- and went on to make par like it was no big deal. By the time the PGA Championship was over, he was in a class by himself.
He’s also back on top of the world – McIlroy climbed from No. 3 back to the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Ranking. Luke Donald, who’d held the top spot for much of the past year, dropped down to second with his tie for 32nd at the PGA, while former No. 2 Tiger Woods slipped down to third with his tie for 11th at Kiawah.
Lee Westwood remained fourth despite missing the cut, while Webb Simpson stayed fifth after also missing out on the weekend. Adam Scott rose a spot from seventh to sixth with his tie for 11th place at Kiawah, and Justin Rose moved from 10th to seventh thanks to his tie for third. Bubba Watson (tied for 11th at PGA) fell from sixth to eighth, Jason Dufner (tied for 27th) fell from eighth to ninth and Steve Stricker rose from 11th to 10th place by tying for seventh in the PGA.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Matt Kuchar (down from ninth), No. 12 Keegan Bradley (up from 15th), No. 13 Graeme McDowell (down from 12th), No. 14 Zach Johnson (down from 13th), No. 15 Hunter Mahan (down from 14th), No. 16 Louis Oosthuizen, No. 17 Ernie Els, No. 18 Dustin Johnson, No. 19 Phil Mickelson and No. 20 Rickie Fowler.
"On 18, I was just taking the whole thing in," McIlroy said after his victory at Kiawah Island. "I allowed myself the luxury of walking up 18 knowing that I was going to win. I enjoyed the moment, just let it all sink in."
Another major championship masterpiece for the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with seemingly unlimited potential.
From the start of the weekend, McIlroy looked like the man to beat at Kiawah Island, and nobody came close. He won Sunday by a record eight strokes, with a flair and charisma that could turn him into golf's next star.
Remember all that talk about how no lead is safe in 2012? McIlroy was in front the entire final round.
"I set myself a target," he said. "I said, `Look, if I get to 12 under par, nobody is going to catch me.'"
He was at 12 under when he walked toward the 18th green with a seven-shot lead, but a par there would have been anticlimactic. Instead, McIlroy rolled in a 25-foot birdie -- and in the process surpassed the PGA Championship record for margin of victory that Jack Nicklaus set in 1980.
McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world and became the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win two majors. Tiger Woods was about four months older than McIlroy when he won his second major.
"He's very good," Woods said. "We all know the talent he has. He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers, and he's got all the talent in the world to do what he's doing. This is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it's pretty impressive to watch."
McIlroy shot a 6-under 66 in the final round to finish at 13-under 275.
McIlroy won last year's U.S. Open by the same eight-shot margin, but after winning the Honda Classic this March, he went into a tailspin by missing four cuts over five tournaments. Questions swirled about whether his romance with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki was hurting his game.
"I don't think I could have answered it in any better way," he said. "To be honest, it did motivate me. I did want to go out there and prove a few people wrong."
McIlroy seized control with back-to-back birdies Sunday morning to complete the storm-delayed third round with a 67 and build a three-shot lead. He closed out a remarkable week by playing bogey-free over the final 23 holes on the demanding Ocean Course.
"I think winning his second major is going to make things a lot easier for him," Padraig Harrington said. "I think last year he proved it, but there's been ups and downs since his last major win because of the pressure and the expectations and the hype. Now he's delivered again. It's going to be a lot easier for him going forward. And he'll get better."
McIlroy's win ends a streak of the last 16 majors going to 16 different winners -- a stretch that coincided with Woods' drought in golf's biggest tournaments. Woods hasn't won a major since 2008. He shared the lead after 36 holes at Kiawah Island but finished tied for 11th.