Rory: I’ve really found my passion again for golf

Rory McIlroy celebrated his Open triumph by drinking red wine out of the Claret Jug, but was also quick to target more major success following his hard-fought win at Royal Liverpool.

McIlroy held off a determined challenge from Sergio Garcia to win by two shots from his Ryder Cup team-mate and American Rickie Fowler, becoming the first European to win three different majors in the modern era and the third to win three by the age of 25.

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods were the other two and McIlroy believes he has the ambition to attempt to match their achievements, Nicklaus having won a record 18 major titles and Woods – a career-worst 69th here – 14.

“I definitely hope so,” said McIlroy, whose win means his father Gerry and three friends won £50,000 each after backing him a decade ago at 500/1 to win by the age of 25.

“I’ve really found my passion again for golf. 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 that I can be and I know if I can do that, then trophies like this are within my capability.

“I’d love to win a lot more and am really looking forward to – even though there’s still one major left this year that I want to desperately try and win - next April and trying to complete the career grand slam.”

That was a reference to the Masters at Augusta, a tournament he famously led by four shots after 54 holes in 2011 only to collapse to a closing 80.

There was little danger of such a collapse on Sunday after McIlroy recovered from bogeys on the fifth and sixth with birdies on the ninth and 10th, but the 25-year-old had to work hard to stay in front of Garcia, who closed to within two of the lead four times.

“It’s been an incredible week,” McIlroy added. “I’m happy I gave myself enough of a cushion because there was a lot of guys coming at me, especially Sergio and Rickie.

“Just to be sitting here and looking at this thing and having my name on it, it’s a great feeling. It obviously hasn’t sunk in yet.

“I’m immensely proud of myself. To sit here 25 years of age and win my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way to the career grand slam, I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly.”

Garcia was inches away from winning the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 before losing a play-off to Padraig Harrington and has now recorded 19 top-10s in 64 majors.

But the 34-year-old was keen to stress the positives of a closing 66 marred only by a bogey on the 15th when he needed two shots to escape a greenside bunker, with McIlroy looking on from the tee.

“Everybody looks at you as second and they want to make it a negative. Not at all,” Garcia said. “I felt like I played well. I felt like I did almost everything I could and there was a better player. It’s as simple as that.

“You don’t have to look at other things. It’s just that simple. All these weeks help in majors – even if you don’t win, they still help.”

HOW THE FINAL DAY UNFOLDED

1440 – Sergio Garcia birdies the first hole to move into joint second place as the leaders prepare to tee off.

1449 – Rory McIlroy holes from 20 feet for birdie on the first to increase his lead to seven.

1500 – Rickie Fowler responds with a birdie on the second to get back to within six shots of his playing partner.

1503 – Garcia birdies the third hole to join Fowler on 11 under.

1532 – Garcia goes through the green with his approach to the par-five fifth, but chips to two feet for birdie and gets within five of the lead.

1542 – McIlroy hits a wild approach to the fifth and a poor pitch leads to a bogey five, cutting his lead to four.

1554 – Failing to get up and down from left of the sixth green costs McIlroy another shot and cuts his lead to three.

1600 – The challengers continue to mount as Sweden’s Robert Karlsson holes from just three feet for an eagle on the 10th to move 11 under.

1624 – McIlroy steadies the ship with a birdie from 15 feet on the ninth to get back to 16 under and four ahead of Garcia.

1630 – Garcia piles the pressure back on, making an eagle on the par-five 10th to close to within two of his Ryder Cup team-mate.

1637 – McIlroy has his own eagle chance from longer range but settles for a birdie to move three ahead.

1654 – Garcia’s approach to the 12th flies into a grandstand but somehow rebounds out and on to the edge of the green, from where he saves par.

1714 – McIlroy mishits his tee shot to the 13th, coming up well short of the green. The resulting bogey cuts his lead to two.

1728 – Garcia takes two shots to get out of a bunker on the 15th green as McIlroy, now three ahead, watches from the tee.

1736 – Fowler birdies the 15th to join Garcia on 13 under.

1748 – Garcia two-putts the 16th to move 14 under and back within two of the lead.

1754 – McIlroy matches that birdie, on a hole he eagled on Saturday, to give himself more breathing space.

1818 – Garcia gets within two shots once more with a birdie on the 18th.

1827 – McIlroy pars the 18th to complete a closing 71 and seal victory.

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