Rory aims to join legends by winning Green Jacket

He does not just win at a canter, you know.

Rory McIlroy found a different way to win a Major yesterday as he ground out a two-shot Open victory at Royal Liverpool that gave him the third leg of a career grand slam.

It was no less impressive for that even if the 25-year-old Irishman, who carded a closing one-under-par 71, had begun the day with a six-shot lead and in search of record-breaking feats such as those he had achieved in winning his first Major at the 2011 US Open.

Instead, as Sergio Garcia and then Rickie Fowler pushed him all the way to the last hole to deny him those pleasures, this victory will be seen as another significant step on the road to greatness, a Major win that moves him closer to an elite group currently numbering Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

They are the men McIlroy is surely destined to join in the career grand slam club, after lifting the famous silver Claret Jug last night as a wire-to-wire winner, the first to accomplish that feat in an Open since Woods in 2005 and third youngest after Nicklaus and Woods to win three legs by the age of 25.

The Masters is now what stands between the boy from Holywood and a place in the Pantheon and he has already set his sights on getting over the line at Augusta National at the earliest opportunity.

“I’ve really found my passion again for golf,” McIlroy said. “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 really looking forward to — even though there’s still one Major left this year that I want to desperately try and win — I’m looking forward to next April and trying to complete the career grand slam.”

It does not matter how you win them, just that you do. Having won both the US Open and 2012 PGA Championship by eight strokes, this victory at 17 under par with a total of 271 shots, two strokes ahead of Fowler and Garcia, was no coronation at the forefront of an adoring and docile field.

The best scoring may have been achieved over the first three rounds but there was still hard work ahead as he faced into the final day at Hoylake.

McIlroy had put daylight between himself and his rivals with an opening pair of 66s followed by a 68 on Saturday that was crowned by two eagles at the par-fives on 16 and 18. It gave him a six-shot cushion that would prove crucial to his victory, even if he had extended his lead to seven at the first hole with an opening birdie.

Fowler, his fellow 25-year-old and weekend playing partner who has been his rival since the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down, birdied the second to claw one back and there was a two-shot swing at the par-five fifth when McIlroy bogeyed and the American birdied.

It was soon back-to-back bogeys which, with Garcia’s birdie at the fifth, halved his lead to three shots from the start of play.

And when McIlroy sparked back to life, with consecutive birdies at nine and 10 to return to 17 under par, his progress was checked by Garcia’s eagle at 10, moving him to 14 under, and a birdie from Fowler at the same hole to move him to 12 under.

So for those who had already crowned McIlroy the prince of Hoylake there was more than a touch of anxiety when he bogeyed the par-three 13th, reducing his lead to two.

Yet McIlroy would falter no more. He left that to Garcia, who fluffed his lines at the par-three 15th when he failed to get out of a greenside bunker at the first attempt. Standing behind him on the elevated tee waiting to play, the exhalation of breath from a relieved McIlroy might have struck the Spaniard in the back some 161 yards down the hole.

It left Fowler as the only man to halt McIlroy and he gave it a real go, with three birdies over the last four holes.

A birdie, par, par finish saw Fowler off, followed by a heckler, whose unwelcome presence throughout the round reached tipping point at the par-five 16th tee when he coughed during McIlroy’s downswing.

It had no effect save to produce the golfer’s most prodigious drive of the day, a 360-yard snorter down the middle of the fairway that once dispatched allowed McIlroy to point his driver in the direction of the offender for the benefit of the marshals and policemen, who escorted the idiot from the course.

It was down to Fowler to rattle Rory by legitimate means, although the American would suffer the frustration of completing a final-round 67 to record four rounds in the 60s for a 15-under total, the fourth time that has been done with no Open victory to show for it and the first since Ernie Els in 2004.

Fowler has been the Majors’ most consistent player this year, his joint second here following a T5 at the Masters and another T2 at last month’s US Open but there is much more for McIlroy to savour.

He took the acclaim of a champion as he marched up a canyon created by the horseshoe grandstand on 18 and when he sank the second of the three putts he had in hand for victory, he looked up from his work with a broad grin, pumped his fist and went looking for his mum, meeting a tearful Rosie McIlroy greenside for the warmest of embraces.

“It feels absolutely incredible,” McIlroy said as he sat beside the Claret Jug looking at his freshly engraved name alongside the game’s greats.

“It’s been an incredible week. I’m happy I gave myself enough of a cushion today, 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 going to enjoy it and let it sink in tonight in the company of my friends and family.”

143rd Open scoreboard

(Gbr unless stated, par 72):

271 R McIlroy (Ire) 66 66 68 71 (£975,000)

273 S Garcia (Spa) 68 70 69 66, R Fowler (USA) 69 69 68 67 (£460,000 each)

275 J Furyk (USA) 68 71 71 65 (£280,000)

276 A Scott (Aus) 68 73 69 66, Marc Leishman (Aus) 69 72 70 65 (£210,500 each)

277 C Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 67 72 67, E Molinari (Ita) 68 73 68 68 (£154,250 each)

278 V Dubuisson (Fra) 74 66 68 70, G McDowell (Ire) 74 69 68 67, S Lowry (Ire) 68 75 70 65 (£112,666 each)

279 D Johnson (USA) 71 65 71 72, R Karlsson (Swe) 69 71 70 69, R Moore (USA) 70 68 73 68 (£84,666 each)

280 F Molinari (Ita) 68 70 75 67, S Gallacher 70 72 70 68, D Howell 72 70 70 68

281 G Coetzee (Rsa) 70 69 74 68

282 C Kirk (USA) 71 74 68 69, K Bradley (USA) 73 71 69 69, M Manassero (Ita) 67 75 68 72, A Cabrera (Arg) 76 69 70 67

283 P Mickelson (USA) 74 70 71 68, C Wood 75 70 73 65, J Rose 72 70 69 72

284 B Martin (USA) 71 73 70 70, B-Hun An (Kor) 72 71 69 72, T Bjorn (Den) 70 71 76 67, J Walker (USA) 69 71 71 73, B Harman (USA) 72 73 68 71, D Clarke (Ire) 72 72 67 73

285 H Mahan (USA) 71 73 72 69, D.A. Points (USA) 75 69 72 69, K Broberg (Swe) 70 73 70 72, D Hearn (Can) 70 73 71 71

286 B Grace (Rsa) 71 72 69 74, L Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 68 76 72, J Spieth (USA) 71 75 67 73

287 K Oda (Jpn) 69 77 74 67, K Stadler (USA) 73 72 71 71, H Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 74 73 71, M Warren 71 68 72 76, B Todd (USA) 73 73 74 67, G Woodland (USA) 75 69 72 71, T Jaidee (Tha) 72 72 72 71, H Stenson (Swe) 72 73 73 69

288 P Casey 74 71 73 70, Z Johnson (USA) 71 75 71 71, G Bourdy (Fra) 75 69 74 70, S Cink (USA) 71 75 73 69

289 B Haas (USA) 70 72 73 74, J Dufner (USA) 70 74 74 71, T Watson (USA) 73 73 75 68

290 K Na (USA) 76 70 70 74, M Kuchar (USA) 73 71 74 72, K Streelman (USA) 72 74 69 75, Matthew Jones (Aus) 71 74 72 73

291 J Senden (Aus) 71 74 75 71, R Palmer (USA) 74 71 76 70, B Snedeker (USA) 74 72 71 74, C Rodgers 73 71 73 74, J Day (Aus) 73 73 74 71, J McLeary 73 73 75 70

292 B Hurley III (USA) 73 72 76 71, T Olesen (Den) 75 71 73 73, L Donald 73 73 71 75

293 B Koepka (USA) 68 77 74 74, C Hoffman (USA) 74 72 76 71

294 T Woods (USA) 69 77 73 75

296 M Kaymer (Ger) 73 72 72 79

297 M Every (USA) 75 71 73 78

298 R Gibson (Aus) 72 74 74 78

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