Rory McIlroy's six-stroke lead heading into the final round of the 2014 British Open proved to be insurmountable. Although the 54-hole leader didn't post another low number, his one-under 71 was enough to fend off a relentless Sergio Garcia and win by two strokes at 17 under par for the tournament.
With the victory, McIlroy now has three of the four pieces of golf's Grand Slam jigsaw under his belt. He's now just a Masters win away from completing the rare feat.
While the world's No. 8-ranked player earned a wire-to-wire victory, he was certainly tested in the final round. Here's a look at the tournament's final leaderboard:
McIlroy began his day with a favorable omen, as he birdied the par-four first after putting the perfect pace on a 20-foot putt to begin his final round.
His stint at 17 under wouldn't last long. McIlroy dropped two strokes, on the fifth and sixth holes, with a couple of bogeys. This cut his lead in half, although the tournament history still boded well for the leader:
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
Still, Garcia continued to surge. Even after McIlroy birdied the par-three ninth, the Spaniard eagled the par-five 10th to get within two of the lead:
Unfortunately for Garcia, he'd drop a shot at the par-three 15th after completely duffing an attempt out of a green-side bunker. SportsCenter tweeted the repercussions:
UPDATE: Sergio Garcia bogeys 15 to fall to -13, 3 back of Rory McIlroy. Catch finish of #TheOpen NOW on ESPN— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 20, 2014
Generally, a three-stoke lead with two holes to play is a comfortable margin. However, this was a major tournament, and Royal Liverpool's 18th hole is a par five.
This scenario led to a dramatic conclusion.
McIlroy faltered on the 17th hole, missing the green with his approach and leaving a difficult up and down to save par. He showed his nerves of steel once again, rolling his green-side attempt to tap-in range.
Shane Bacon of Yahoo Sports tweeted McIlroy's reaction after his brilliant shot:
Mini fist pump for McIlroy. He knows. Augusta, you ready for the Rory show?— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) July 20, 2014
Garcia found the green in two on the final hole, but after missing his eagle attempt, tapped in for birdie. McIlroy, up by two strokes, added to the drama by sailing his approach wide into a green-side bunker.
Remaining unfazed by pressure, McIlroy hit a low runner out of the bunker that checked up and settled just past the pin. ESPN Radio tweeted the stroke as it happened:
McIlroy nearly holes out bunker shot for eagle on 18 leaving him less than 10ft for birdie putt to win first ever #OpenChampionship— ESPN Radio (@espnradio) July 20, 2014
That shot ensured a victory.
Two putts later, McIlroy tapped in for a par and his first British Open win.
The Open's official Twitter account noted exactly how relevant McIlroy's performance was:
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
He also joins some very elite company, via Bleacher Report:
Rory McIlroy is 3rd man in Masters era to win 3 majors before turning 26. The others: Jack Nicklaus & Tiger Woods. pic.twitter.com/gbMp3C74TP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 20, 2014
The amazing comparisons continued to roll in. Here's an impressive statistic, via ESPN Stats & Info:
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
Justin Ray of the Golf Channel tweeted one more of McIlroy's illustrious accomplishments:
McIlroy wins 1st 3 majors of career by combined 18 shots. Only with more all-time: Tiger 28, Young Tom Morris 26, Old Tom 19.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 20, 2014
Not only that, but the 25-year-old phenom is now just a bit richer—and so is his father, according to a tweet from the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman:
Rory McIlroy will bank $1.6 million with an Open win. His dad will bank $350K for winning his bet on Rory at 500-1. Equal to a top 5 finish.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 20, 2014
McIlroy's win will surely fire up a debate over his current standing among golf's finest players—especially after a lackluster tournament from Tiger Woods.
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports provided his take just after the completion of the British Open:
BBC Sport relayed how McIlroy was feeling upon earning the coveted Claret Jug:
It was a well-deserved win for McIlroy. Rest assured, he'll quickly have his sights set on next year's Masters to complete the career Grand Slam.
The way he's playing right now, that idea isn't the least bit far-fetched.