After winning the British Open at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Rory McIlroy became the third golfer ever to have won three major titles before his 26th birthday. The two players to have done that before him were Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus—a real measure of his superb achievement.
McIlroy reaffirmed his indisputable talent with a stunning showing at the Hoylake course, holding off late charges from Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia to win his first ever Claret Jug and the third major title of his career. But the Northern Irishman won’t dwell on this latest triumph and will be insatiable in his pursuit of sustained success as this season rolls on.
In fact, in the immediate aftermath of his British Open win, he was already looking toward the next milestone, per Alex Perry of ESPN:
The Open Championship was the one I really wanted growing up, and the one I holed so many putts on the putting green to win, to beat Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, whoever.
The more I keep looking at this trophy and seeing my name on it, the more it will start sinking in, but I'm already looking forward to driving up Magnolia Lane next year and trying to complete the Grand Slam at The Masters.
But before he can consider donning the Green Jacket and completing a historic career Grand Slam, there are other challenges that await McIlroy, beginning as early as September when he’ll head to Gleneagles to compete in the Ryder Cup. Here's a look at how the newly crowned British Open champion will fare for the rest of the season.
Inspire Europe to Ryder Cup Glory
After winning the most coveted individual trophy in golf, McIlroy will be desperate to add the most illustrious team trophy in the sport to his ever-growing collection of accolades. The 25-year-old will be a key figure in the European effort, and they’ll be looking to repeat the heroics that saw Jose Maria Olazabal’s team complete a stunning comeback at Medinah in 2012.
Two years ago, the European team overcame a four-point deficit on the final day to win the trophy, and after such a thrilling tournament, anticipation will be at an all-time high ahead of this wonderful competition.
The Europeans will be on home turf this time, though. The golf supporters will be turning out in thousands to get behind the team at Gleneagles, and you can bet they’ll all be desperate to catch a glimpse of the brand new British Open champion.
At the last Ryder Cup, McIlroy notched three points from a possible four for his team. This time round, you suspect that he’ll be targeting all five points that could be on offer and, given the sparkling play he produced at Hoylake, you certainly wouldn’t put it past him.
Win the Race to Dubai
McIlroy’s win in the British Open put him thoroughly in control in the 2014 Race to Dubai. He picked up £975,000 in winnings after his Hoylake triumph, per TheOpen.com, and in doing so extended his lead over Thomas Bjorn in the overall standings to circa €1 million.
Having won at the BMW PGA Championship in May, McIlroy had already guaranteed his position at the Dubai season finale, but now he’ll be looking to go on and win in a competition in which he triumphed back in 2012.
Winning in Dubai is the pinnacle of the European Tour, and while McIlroy will no doubt be looking ahead to the Masters in April, a strong finish to the season would stand him in good stead as he builds toward notching a Green Jacket and that coveted career Grand Slam in early 2015. At the moment, there are few players that look capable of stopping him.
Regain World No. 1 Ranking
Adam Scott still leads the official world rankings, but McIlroy finds himself breathing down the Aussie’s neck after the win at Hoylake. Here are the current standings as noted by Golf Digest’s Ron Sirak:
McIlroy jumped six spots up the standings after securing his third major title, surpassing the likes of Woods, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson in the process.
These rankings are an excellent indicator of supreme consistency, and after a turbulent 2013, McIlroy has rediscovered his form and stability in 2014, as illustrated by the latest standings. But at the moment, Scott looks in excellent form and even if McIlroy continues to shine, it'll be difficult for him to overtake the current leader.
While winning tournaments is the primary motivation for players, topping the world rankings is certainly a major source of pride, too. If he can overtake Scott—who's been unshakeably brilliant throughout the season—before the end of the year, then it would be the coup de grace on what has been a magnificent 12 months for the British Open champion.