Rory McIlroy joined an exclusive club with his first Open Championship win today as he held the Claret Jug aloft at Royal Liverpool to become only the third player in history to win three majors by the age of 25.
The Northern Irishman’s two-shot win saw him join the two most successful players ever in terms of major wins – Americans Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – to reach the milestone on a day that only briefly saw his charge to victory threatened by Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler of the United States.
McIlroy began the day with a six-shot lead over Fowler as both players teed off in the final group of this year’s Championship and immediately extended his lead by picking up a birdie at the opening hole.
After rounds of 66, 66 and 68 the signs looked ominous for the rest of the field as McIlroy looked like he was going to register another sub 70 round but a poor approach shot to the par-five fifth hole saw him register his first bogey that was quickly followed by a second at the next.
In the group ahead, Garcia was beginning to mount a charge as his third birdie of the day saw him cut McIlroy’s lead to three.
A birdie at the ninth saw the Northern Irishman take a four-shot lead into the final nine holes with Garcia and Fowler the his only realistic challengers.
It was the Spaniard who ratcheted up the drama even more by superbly eagling the 10th to draw within two shots of the lead only for McIlroy to hit back with another birdie to take his advantage back to three before another dropped shot at the 13th saw him reeled in again.
But Garcia found the bunker with his tee-shot at the par-three 15th and took a bogey to once again put McIlroy in the driving seat.
Fowler made a late charge, birdying three of the last four holes but his round of 67 was not enough as McIlroy parred the last for a round of 71 to seal the win ahead of the American and Garcia who both finished at 15-under-par.
“The Open is the one we all want, the one we all strive for,” said McIlroy, who adds the Open Championship to his wins at the 2011 US Open and 2012 USPGA Championship.
“To hold this Claret Jug is an amazing feeling.
“The course is a very, very good test of golf.
“I am delighted with the way it was set up, it seemed to work in my favour.
“It feels incredible.
“It wasn’t easy – there were a few guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused.”
For Garcia it was a third runners-up spot at a major while Fowler recorded his third top-five finish so far in this year’s majors following impressive performances at Augusta in April and Pinehurst last month.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson shot his best round of the week on the final day as a 68 saw him shoot under 70 for the first time to leave him at five-under-par for the Championship.
Compatriot Jim Furyk was one of four players to make the final trip around Royal Liverpool in seven-under-par to leave him sitting in outright fourth on 13-under-par while Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Australian Marc Leishman and England’s Chris Wood also went round in 65.
World number one Adam Scott finished with a 66 to leave him on 12-under-par while three-time champion Woods finished his second outing since back surgery in March on six-over-par.
This article first appeared in Inside the Games and has been reproduced with permission. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.