Rory McIlroy is showing no signs of slowing down. Even after achieving the third leg of the career Grand Slam at The Open Championship, McIlroy promptly got back to his winning ways on Sunday at the 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
A final-round 66 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, saw McIlroy get to 15 under par overall to claim victory over Sergio Garcia by two strokes.
Brian Wacker of the PGA Tour noted that McIlroy moved up the world golf rankings:
Before this tournament began, McIlroy appeared determined to keep pressing on even after achieving his lifelong dream of holding the Claret Jug, per Wacker:
I'm enjoying being The Open champion, but that's not all I want to be this year. I want to do more. I think every time you have success, you need to reassess your goals because it's only halfway, two‑thirds through the season. You've got to keep moving forward and keep thinking about what you want to achieve from now until the end of the year. And then at the end of the year, you can really reflect on everything you've done and enjoy it.
That candor can be appreciated almost as much as McIlroy's tremendous golf game when he's truly in the groove. Between his towering ball flight, incredibly long drives and hot putter, McIlroy is almost unstoppable when he is on his A-game. Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel commended the Northern Irishman's skill off the tee:
The proper ingredients have come together often enough for McIlroy to match only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as players to secure three majors by age 25. FiveThirtyEight.com noted how McIlroy compared to the two legends following his Open Championship win at Hoylake:
Fields are deeper now than ever in professional golf. With younger players focusing singularly on the sport at an earlier age, combined with the increased forgiveness in golf technology and enhanced training and nutrition programs, the game has evolved.
McIlroy has transformed into a chiseled athlete whose shorter stature (5'9") is no indication of how far he booms the ball. The phenomenon was on display in Akron—a place where Woods had won eight prior times in 15 starts.
Firestone has always been kind to McIlroy, though. He's had high praise for it in the past, and the lack of a weekend cut allows for aggressive, longer players to attack more than others. McIlroy had finished in the top 10 for three straight years before Firestone became another speed bump in McIlroy's slump of 2013.
As McIlroy hinted before the week began, he has plenty to play for—and a lot of momentum to harness entering the upcoming stretch of high-profile golf.
On deck is the final major of the season, the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. Much of the major hype surrounding McIlroy will reach a fever pitch next April at Augusta National, where McIlroy will seek to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters. However, he has a shot to win the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time in three years, moving his major total to four.
When he won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah Island, McIlroy sprung into the FedEx Cup playoffs and notched two victories—his last on American soil until this year's Bridgestone Invitational. McIlroy will have plenty of incentive to seize the FedEx Cup, something he's never done before, and then has the fortune of looking ahead to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Indeed, McIlroy will have time to reflect on the glory that could lie ahead when the season concludes. Right now, it's about one of golf's most extraordinary talents keeping his foot on the accelerator and seeing how far he can boost his profile before the calendar year ends.
When the dust settles, expect McIlroy to be entrenched atop the world rankings with even more hardware for his growing trophy case.