Rory McIlroy, welcome back on top.
After nearly two years away from major championships, the Northern Irish golfer won the 2014 British Open. Just like his first two majors, there was hardly any doubt throughout the weekend that it was his.
His Sunday score of 71 wasn't nearly among the top scores from the final round; Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler were among those with mid-60s scores that threatened McIlroy's once-sizable lead. But it didn't matter, after he built a massive lead from two rounds of 66 heading into the weekend. A six-stroke lead on Sunday
Here's a look at the final leaderboard, with the last results and scores from action at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy Has (Re-)Arrived
Golf has been waiting for McIlroy to take it over for the past few years as Tiger Woods loses his stranglehold over the sport. Once again on Sunday, it seemed like the Northern Irishman's time has come.
Starting out with two incredible rounds on Thursday and Friday, McIlroy led from the beginning and didn't look back. ESPN's SportsCenter capped up his win from start to finish via Twitter:
Rory McIlroy is 7th man in Open Championship history to win Claret Jug while leading wire-to-wire (no ties). pic.twitter.com/Y6bkmqH6tp— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 20, 2014
Impressive rounds were the norm early on at Royal Liverpool with ideal conditions, but they didn't suit anyone better than McIlroy. His early 66s weren't the best round of the tournament, but they were more than enough back-to-back to give him a sizable lead.
Anyone who saw the 2011 Masters and followed McIlroy early in his career knows that such a lead isn't safe, and the nerves had to settle in when Garcia trimmed his lead to just two strokes on the back nine.
But this wasn't a young star who hadn't arrived yet—this was today's top golfer dominating the big stage for the third time in his career.
Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger captured three majors before the age of 25, making McIlroy the third-youngest to do so. On top of that, he joins an exclusive list of golfers one major shy of the career Grand Slam, per ESPN Stats & Info:
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
McIlroy's 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship wins seemed like the start of a tear, but he's seen better days in the time between then and now. Once the world No. 1 golfer, McIlroy's lack of consistency and streaky play caused him to fade throughout 2013.
How many majors will McIlroy win in 2015?
But as he showed yet again on Sunday, nobody can top McIlroy when he's at his best. There were star golfers aplenty right behind him, and he cruised to a victory he wouldn't have been capable of three years ago.
It's been six years since Woods has won a major, and so many promising young players have taken advantage but none more than McIlroy. A few more majors in 2015, and the Northern Irish star could start to dominate the sport.
Rickie Fowler's Impressive Major Finishes Here to Stay
The spotlight was placed firmly on McIlroy, but Rickie Fowler was doing more than wearing his typical Sunday orange to stand out for himself.
Fowler was one of the only golfers within striking distance of the lead, six strokes back entering Sunday's final round. And if McIlroy happened to struggle during his final round, Fowler's 15-under final score would have put him into a playoff with Garcia for the championship.
Unlike McIlroy, Fowler got better as the weekend progressed; his opening two rounds of 69 were followed by a 68 on moving day and a final-round 67.
In spectacular fashion, Fowler was the only golfer in the field to keep his score below 70 for every round. But as ESPN's Trey Wingo noted, it wasn't enough:
Rickie Fowler is going to shoot 4 rounds in the 60s and not win a major....— trey wingo (@wingoz) July 20, 2014
The 25-year-old Fowler has already made his mark as one of the top young golfers prior to 2014, but he's made it official throughout this calendar year.
Three top-five finishes in majors will do that, as Fowler joined some serious company with the feat, per Golf Digest:
Rickie Fowler is the first player to finish in the top five of the season's first three majors since Tiger in 2005. #TheOpen2014— Golf Digest (@GolfDigestMag) July 20, 2014
The clock is ticking toward an inevitable major victory for Fowler, as he continues to reach the doorstep of winning the big one.
Tiger Woods' Struggles Continue
The major spotlight hasn't been kind to Tiger Woods ever since his 2008 U.S. Open victory, but Sunday was one of his worst-ever performances on the big stage—at least statistically.
He barely made the cut after threatening to miss it on Friday, but the weekend didn't bring out the best in his game. He sputtered down the stretch, finishing with a three-over 75.
It marked his worst-ever finish after making the cut at a major, per SportsCenter:
Tiger Woods shoots 75 (+3) to move to 6-over at #TheOpen. This will be his worst career major finish in which he's made the cut.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 20, 2014
Woods faced a tough road back to the course after back surgery kept him out of the year's first two majors. He failed to make the cut at the Quicken Loans National in his return in late June.
The 38-year-old started out strong with an opening round of three-under, but he went above par on each of the next three days and finished some 23 strokes behind the victor.
Darren Rovell put Woods' major drought into painful perspective:
6 years, 1 months, 2 days: Time since Tiger Woods last won a major.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) July 20, 2014
Woods still has a few chances left to salvage something out of 2014; the PGA Championship is upcoming and he could still be selected for the Ryder Cup by captain Tom Watson.
But after his second poor performance in as many appearances since his return, even a spot on the Ryder Cup team is in serious jeopardy for the 14-time major champion.