McIlroy wins coveted major
HOYLAKE England (Reuters) — Rory McIlroy suffered several anxious moments but kept the jitters in check to rubber-stamp his status as the newest golfing great by landing the first British Open title of his career on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman watched Sergio Garcia (66) cut his overnight lead from six strokes to two before repelling the last-round charge by his European Ryder Cup team mate to land his third major in a tantalizing finish at Royal Liverpool.
McIlroy returned a closing 71 for a 17-under total of 271 to become the third youngest player in the modern era to capture three of the four majors, following Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24).
“It feels absolutely incredible. I’m happy I gave myself a cushion because there were a lot of guys coming at me especially Sergio and Rickie Fowler,” he told reporters after picking up the coveted Claret Jug and a first prize of 975,000 pounds ($1.67 million). “Just to be sitting here and looking at this thing and having my name on it, is a great feeling. It hasn’t sunk in yet and I’m going to enjoy it and let it sink in tonight in the company of my friends and family.”
Garcia, still striving to shed the unwanted tag of being one of the best players never to win one of the ‘Big Four’ prizes, pushed the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 U.S. PGA champion all the way before settling for a share of second place.
The 34-year-old Spaniard ultimately shared the runners-up spot with Fowler on 273. The 25-year-old American was always on the fringe of the battle as he closed with a well-crafted 67, his fourth sub-70 score of the week.
“I felt like I played well. I felt like I did almost everything I could and there was a better player here. It’s as simple as that. I try to look at the positives and there are always a lot more positives than negatives. That’s where I want to take it,” said Garcia who was also second at the 2007 Open and at the U.S. PGA Championship in 1999 and 2008.
Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (65) equaled the best round of the week to finish fourth on 275.
Woods, playing among the back markers, ended his campaign with a disappointing three-over 75 for 294, six over.
“The fact I was able to play a few weeks ahead of time, and I’m only getting stronger and faster, that’s great,” he added. “I just had to get more game time. I think we did the smart thing by not playing too much leading into this event, just want to assess how my back was.
“I’ve got more game time under my belt. Obviously there’s a lot of things I need to work on but I haven’t been able to work on a lot. “I was down for three months so I’m just now starting to come back.”
Back down the 17th, McIlroy missed the green with his approach but a glorious chip to 12 inches made sure he turned the final hole into a victory parade.
“I’m immensely proud of myself,” he said after completing a wire-to-wire win. “To sit here at 25 years of age and win my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam.
“I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly. The Open championship was the one you really wanted growing up.”
Rory’s father nets $170K for son’s win
Gerry McIlroy was $170,900 richer on Sunday following his son Rory’s two-stroke victory in the 143rd British Open at Royal Liverpool.
Ladbrokes said in a news release that Gerry had placed a 500-1 bet on his son a decade ago to land the coveted Claret Jug within 10 years.
“Although we’re facing heavy losses we can’t help but admire the foresight of Rory’s dad and his pals a decade ago,” added a spokesperson for the British bookmakers.
Two friends of Rory’s father also collected nearly 80,000 pounds from a similar wager.
“They are all going to be very happy,” said McIlroy junior. “My dad has never reminded me but I knew he’d done it — it’s a nice little bonus.”
McIlroy’s victory, his third in a major after the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 U.S. PGA Championship triumphs, means he only needs the U.S. Masters to complete a grand slam of golf’s ‘Big Four’ prizes.