Rory McIlroy may finally be embracing his destiny.
After plenty of close calls and second-round meltdowns, the 25-year-old put on a dazzling display at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club to win the 2014 British Open, becoming only the third golfer to complete three-fourths of the career Grand Slam before the age of 26, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Rory McIlroy joins Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win 3 of the 4 majors at age 25 or younger.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2014
At 25 Rory McIlroy is now three-fourths of the way to a career Grand Slam joining some very exclusive company pic.twitter.com/Md4iWsRKci— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2014
The fact that he's in the same company as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods illustrates that McIlroy can do almost anything from here on out. He's been on the PGA Tour for so long that it's become easy to forget how young he is. He's only just now entering his prime golfing years.
McIlroy finished at 17 under, which was two strokes ahead of Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia, who tied for second place.
Of course, the win earned McIlroy quite a pay day. You can see the full list of payouts for each position on the British Open's official website.
Total Purse: £5,400,000
After the win, McIlroy spoke about how important it was for him to win the British Open, but that didn't stop him from baiting the Liverpool crowd a bit, per BBC Sport:
It's all fun and games until you're a Manchester United supporter in Merseyside.
Carrying a six-shot lead into the final round, McIlroy didn't need to be brilliant on Sunday in order to come out victorious. He merely needed to not slip up and maybe grab a stroke here or there, and that's exactly what he did.
Rory wasn't the only McIlroy getting paid on Sunday, either, with his father, Gerry, collecting on the now-famous bet he made 10 years ago, per broadcaster Andrew Cotter:
So just to confirm - 10 yrs ago Gerry McIlroy & three friends put £400 at 500-1 on 15 year-old Rory to win The Open before he turned 26.— Andrew Cotter (@MrAndrewCotter) July 19, 2014
Of course, the younger McIlroy collected a hefty payout for his four days of work. You can't exactly pawn the Claret Jug to maintain a living wage, right?
Given his track record in major tournaments, many wondered if McIlroy would throw his massive lead away in the final round and strengthen the perception that he's this generation's Greg Norman.
Picking up bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes didn't help matters, which allowed his lead to shrink from six strokes to three:
McIlroy's lead down from 6 strokes to 3 thru 6 holes. No player has ever held a lead larger than 5 at this tournament and failed to win.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2014
The on-rushing Sergio Garcia certainly made things interesting with birdies on Nos. 1, 3 and 5 and then an eagle on the 10th hole. It would've been a bit coincidental if Garcia would've been the guy to knock off McIlroy on Sunday, considering his inability to win a major tournament.
As GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel noted, the pressure was only mounting on the Northern Irishman:
Rory McIlroy leads by two, but now must deal with flop sweat, shaky fingers and knocking knees. Oh, and not get swallowed by history, too.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 20, 2014
McIlroy regained his composure on the end of the front nine, birdieing the ninth and 10th holes to maintain a stranglehold on the lead. Even a bogey on the 13th hole couldn't open the door enough for Garcia or Fowler, whose back-nine push wasn't enough to overtake the leader.
Since they tied for second, Fowler and Garcia split the pots for second and third winning £460,000 apiece, which helps to numb the sting of getting so close to a British Open title and falling short.
Once McIlroy birdied No. 16, that was all she wrote. He had a three-stroke lead with two holes to play, so it would've taken a collapse of Jean van de Velde-sized proportions for him to slip up:
Driver. 8-iron. 2 putt. Rory McIlroy birdies 16 and has a 3 shot lead with just 2 holes remaining. #TheOpen— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) July 20, 2014
That didn't happen, thus robbing Sunday of some drama.
Instead, the final round was about one of the game's best young talents ascending to his rightful throne as the best in the world.
With McIlroy now capturing three of the four Grand Slam events, there's no denying there will be even greater expectations for him moving forward.