Despite strong finishes from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, who both finished tied for second, McIlroy was able to hold on after shooting just one under par Sunday. A number of other golfers finished the final round strong, including Jim Furyk and Marc Leishman, who both shot seven under to move near the top of the leaderboard.
Now that there's just one major left to be played, here are the top storylines to follow after the Open Championship.
Rory McIlroy Is Back on Track
After a promising 2012 season, McIlroy didn't have nearly the year he was hoping for in 2013. However, with his third career major now under his belt, it looks like McIlroy is back on track.
In 2014, McIlroy already has seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, including a strong finish at the Masters Tournament, where he ended up tied for eighth. After the win at the British Open, McIlroy now ranks seventh on the money list, with more than $3.6 million in earnings this season.
At just 25 years old, McIlroy is in elite company with three majors. According to Numbers Never Lie, McIlroy is the third-youngest player to win three majors, behind only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus:
Rory McIlroy is the 3rd-youngest player (behind Jack Nicklaus & Tiger Woods) in the Masters era to win his 3rd major.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) July 21, 2014
With such a strong performance this past weekend, McIlroy admits that he's more focused on golf once again.
“I’ve really found my passion again for golf,” McIlroy told Karen Crouse of The New York Times. “Not that it ever dwindled, but it’s what I think about when I get up in the morning, it’s what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer I can be.”
McIlroy has never had three top-10 major finishes in one season, but he has the chance to do so this year with the PGA Championship still to go. In five appearances at the major, he's won once, finished tied for third twice and tied for eighth in 2013. Considering how well he's been playing lately, there's a pretty good chance McIlroy will get that top-10 finish.
Tiger Woods Still Trying to Return to Form
While McIlroy has been able to find his groove once again this season, the 38-year-old Woods has not. And after another rough finish, fans will be watching to see if he can return to form by the end of the year.
In five PGA Tour events this season, Woods has finished in the top 25 just once (the World Golf Championships in March). After that, he missed more than three months due to back surgery and has struggled in his two tournaments since returning. After missing the cut at the Quicken Loans National, finished 69th at The Open Championship.
It's been more than six years since Tiger last won a major, and this was his worst finish at a major in his entire career. Woods admitted that he was expecting to be rusty at this tournament. Here's what he told CBSSports.com's Kyle Porter:
I was certainly expecting it, yes, but I just thought that I know how to play links golf. I know how to grind it on these golf courses, and hitting the shots I thought I could get around here. I did the first day. After a bad start I got it back. And unfortunately, as I said, I made too many mistakes with the doubles and triples.
As Woods gets older and the drought continues, some are beginning to write off Tiger. But as Rich Lerner of the Golf Channel points out, Jack Nicklaus had quite a bit of success as he got older:
About to enter the "world is writing Tiger off" stage of his career. They did Jack and he won 2 majors at 40. Greatness doesn't die easily.— Rich Lerner (@RichLernerGC) July 20, 2014
Still, with how much he's struggled this season, Tiger has a lot of work to do if he wants to start turning things around before the PGA Championship in August.