After four days of outstanding golf, Rory McIlroy capped off a brilliant performance by winning the 2014 British Open.
Despite a few hiccups during the final round Sunday, McIlroy held off Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler to claim his first Claret Jug with a wire-to-wire victory at Royal Liverpool.
The Northern Irish player finished the day with a one-under 71 to finish the tournament at 17-under overall. McIlroy's win also makes him the third-youngest player to secure three majors behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
The Open account also notes another bit of history for the superstar:
Rory McIlroy will become the first European to win 3 different majors since The Masters was founded in 1934. pic.twitter.com/Bwov2zuIem— The Open (@The_Open) July 20, 2014
After claiming the wire-to-wire victory, McIlroy joined a group of just seven players to accomplish the feat with such dominance. ESPN Stats & Info provides a graphic of the names he joins with no ties:
Rory McIlroy is the 7th Open Champion to lead (without being tied) after each of the 4 rounds. pic.twitter.com/tI8tgQmOhQ— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2014
McIlroy put together another consistent day, finishing with his first score over 70 on the tournament. With Fowler in his pairing, he maintained the lead throughout the final round despite great play from the fellow 25-year-old player.
He also helped his father, Gerry McIlroy, cash in on a big payday after a long-standing bet. Steve Elling of Golf Digest joked about the bet for his the proud father:
Rory's mom gives him a hug, but no sign of Gerry. Must be on the way to Ladbrokes.— Steve Elling (@EllingYelling) July 20, 2014
While his father was the one collecting the money after the major, McIlroy got emotional when talking about his mother after the win. The three-time major champion spoke about having her in attendance during the ESPN broadcast:
"It means an awful lot to be honest," McIlroy said. "This is the first major championship my mom's been at when I've won. To be able to see her ... was really nice. It's really nice to be able to share a moment like this with them."
He added, "I feel like I've come a long way in the past 18 months with all that's happened to me on and off the golf course. I think my determination and hard work has paid off."
The end of the final round got interesting for McIlroy, as fans attempted to distract the eventual champion.
On the 16th tee, McIlroy was met with an unruly fan who was escorted from the hole. Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun and Cork Gaines of Business Insider break down the scene:
Rory crushes it off 16 tee, then glares behind him at someone. Heckler? Cops leading a guy away....— Cam Cole (@rcamcole) July 20, 2014
With the victory at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy joins a select list of golfers to win three of the four majors, as Sky Sports Golf points out:
Should he win, Rory McIlroy would become the 16th player in major championship history to win three of the four majors.— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) July 20, 2014
One man who has accomplished that feat is Phil Mickelson, who hasn't been able to win the U.S. Open during his career. The defending champion at the Open Championship is confident the young player will capture it soon, per Bob Harig of ESPN:
Phil on idea of Rory getting third leg of career Grand Slam: Masters would be left "and that definitely will happen and probably soon.''— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 20, 2014
Here's a look at the final leaderboard from the 2014 Open Championship and a recap of the final round.
As they took to the course, the golf world was buzzing about both McIlroy and Fowler and their youth.
It was just the second time the two players have been paired together with the first coming back in the 2007 Walker Cup. Luke Kerr-Dineen of Golf Digest provides a side-by-side photo comparing the two since that pairing:
Quite a stark difference since that time in both appearance and the consistency of their games.
From the start of the final round on Sunday, pressure was already being applied to McIlroy with Garcia in such close contention. Once seen as the future of golf at a young age, Garcia was still working toward his first major on Sunday.
With the Spaniard carding three birdies on the first five holes, he overtook Fowler early and looked like a true contender to take his first major. Shane Bacon of Yahoo noted just how well he was playing from the start:
Sergio is locked in right now. Might be his best shot at one of these and he knows it.— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) July 20, 2014
Garcia then collected an eagle on the 10th to keep his accent upward, but would eventually fall short of the mark. The 34-year-old has now finished runner-up in four major tournaments without claiming a title.
Despite the strong start from Garcia, McIlroy also looked good from the opening hole with a birdie on the par four.
While McIlroy, Garcia and Fowler were looking to build their legacies, one man that has already made his mark had a great day early. Tom Watson, an eight-time major winner, appeared reinvigorated on the course as he carded a four-under 68 on the final day.
The American was met with a rousing applause as he walked down the final green, via The Open:
Standing ovation for Tom Watson as he walks up the 18th fairway. We'll see him next year at St Andrews for his farewell performance.— The Open (@The_Open) July 20, 2014
As the account notes, golf fans will get one more opportunity to see the ageless wonder on The Open stage next year at St. Andrews. The five-time winner of the tournament is also the Ryder Cup captain and has a tough decision to make about a struggling superstar.
Much was made of Tiger Woods returning to the major scene at Royal Liverpool, but he came up well short. After narrowly making the cut on Friday, the final round was another forgettable one for the 38-year-old.
Woods finished with a three-over 75 to fall further down the leaderboard at six over overall. The 14-time major winner still believes Watson should pick him for the Ryder Cup team, per Fox Sports Live:
Who will win the PGA Championship?
With the British Open now complete, just one major tournament awaits the best golfers in the world. The PGA Championship will be held at the Valhalla Golf Club where—you guessed it—Woods was the last winner when the major was held there.
That victory came back in 2000, but Woods will look to dominate the course again and hopefully be much higher on the leaderboard. After cruising at the British Open, McIlroy figures to be a contender when the event begins on Aug. 7.
Along with the two superstars, Fowler, Garcia and defending champion Jason Dufner will also play a huge part at Valhalla. As the final major remaining on the schedule, there will be plenty of intrigue in the weeks leading up to the huge tournament.
For now, the golf world will celebrate the return of a superstar to the top of his game.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.