Rory McIlroy took another huge step towards confirming himself as one of the true greats of the game by winning the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
The Northern Irishman carded a one-under-par 71 to win by two shots from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler.
In doing so, 25-year-old McIlroy claimed his third major title, following wins at the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other players to have bagged a trio of wins in the game’s biggest events by the same age.
“It feels absolutely incredible,” said McIlroy. “It’s so cool they put your name before you get it. That was a nice little touch. Just to be sitting here and looking at this thing and having my name on it, it’s an incredible feeling. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m going to enjoy it and let it sink in tonight in the company of my friends and family.”
Starting the day with a six-shot lead, McIlroy got off to the perfect start, birdieing the first. At that stage, leading by seven, it appeared as though a victory procession would follow.
It didn’t quite work out that way, though. Back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth, coupled with a blistering start by Garcia, who birdied three of his first five holes, suddenly saw the Northern Irishman’s lead clipped to two.
A birdie at the par-5 tenth put McIlroy back in command and, with Fowler struggling to keep up, the back nine largely developed into a two-horse race between Rory and Sergio. However, the decisive moment came when Garcia, in the group ahead, found a greenside bunker at the par-3 15th and failed to get out first time, dropping his first shot of the day.
"I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly." - Rory McIlroy
Whilst the Spaniard got the shot right back at the 16th, McIlroy matched him to take a three-shot lead down the par-5 last.
Garcia and Fowler, who had rallied with birdies on 15 and 16, both gained shots up ahead to get to 15-under and leave Rory just two ahead standing over his approach. There were gasps from the galleries when he found a bunker to the right of the green but he splashed out to 15 feet, leaving himself the luxury of three putts for the win. In the end, he needed just two to complete what was a dominant wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s been an incredible week,” added McIlroy. “I’m happy I gave myself enough of a cushion today because there were a lot of guys coming at me, especially Sergio and Rickie.”
Incredibly, Rory will now go to the Masters next year knowing that a victory at Augusta National would see him complete the career grand slam, becoming just the sixth player in the history of the game to do so.
“I’m immensely proud of myself,” he said. “To sit here, 25 years of age, with my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way towards the career grand slam… I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly.
“The Open Championship was the one you really wanted growing up and the one you holed so many putts on the green to win to beat Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, whatever. I didn’t quite need to hole a putt today to do it. Just a little tap-in, which was nice. As I said, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. The more I keep looking at this trophy and seeing my name on it, the more it will start sinking in.”
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