The Open: McIlroy holds nerve to win his first Claret Jug

Rory captures third Major title by two shots

-17 Rory McIlroy
-15 Sergio Garcia
      Rickie Fowler
-13 Jim Furyk
-12 Marc Leishman
      Adam Scott 

What looked like a procession turned into one of the great days in recent Major history as Rory McIlroy captured his first Open Championship.

After the relative lack of drama at Augusta and Pinehurst the 25-year-old extended his overnight six-shot lead with a 20-footer at the 1st but then the Championship slowly turned into a beauty of a final day.

The main assailant was Sergio Garcia, fifth here last time, who picked off three birdies in the first five holes.

Meanwhile, in the group behind, McIlroy was making a mess of the 5th and 6th and the lead was now three.

McIlroy’s short game has been magnificent all week – he began the day leading the putting stats – and a sand save at the 7th settled the nerves. Two holes later he rolled in an 18-footer to be out in level par and still with a four-shot advantage.

Back came Sergio, this time with a second eagle of the week at the 10th, (his first came when he holed his approach at the 2nd on Friday) this time courtesy of a 15-foot putt. The lead was now two.

But the back nine has been where the Northern Irishman has done most of his damage and he began it with a two-putt birdie at 10.

If there was a sense that the tide could turn further it came at the 12th when the Spaniard’s approach clattered out of the grandstands on to the edge of the green to help him to an unlikely par. At the next his tee shot stayed above ground when it could easily have slipped into a greenside bunker, another par, and we were back to two when McIlroy pulled his tee shot at the short 13th short and wide.

However, with McIlroy watching on from the 15th tee, Garcia, one of the most magical bunker players, left his escape in the sand and a first bogey of the day was recorded.

Only Woods and Nicklaus had won more than two Majors by the age of 25, McIlroy now joins them McIlroy’s previous two Major victories had both been by eight victories but there was still work to be done and he did it in a very mature fashion. The strategy was sound and the driver superb.

At the 15th he found the heart of the green, then followed it up with another colossal drive to set up the easiest of birdies and again showed the most brilliant of touches to save par at the penultimate hole.

Come the last he could afford to smash two irons into a greenside bunker from where he almost holed out.

Rickie Fowler, playing alongside the champion, barged his way into a share of second spot with three late birdies and he finished the Championship as the only player to record four rounds in the 60s. His closing 67, with no bogeys, meant his three Major finishes this year have been 5th, 2nd and 2nd

He is also just the fifth player under 30 to finish in the top 5 at three straight Majors – the others are Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

But the last word goes to McIlroy, winner of three of the last 14 Majors. Only Woods and Nicklaus had won more than two Majors by the age of 25, McIlroy now joins them. Three quarters of the career Grand Slam have now been ticked off, all that remains is a Green Jacket.

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