Rory McIlroy clinches his first British Open Championship and third major

Written by Reuters | Hoylake | Updated: Jul 21 2014, 14:13pm hrs
Rory McIlroyRory McIlroy kisses the Claret Jug after winning the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake. (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 tantalising finish. McIlroy returned a closing 71 for a 17-under total of 271 to become the third youngest player in history to capture three of the four majors, following Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24). It wasnt easy today and I just needed to stay focused, in the present and keep my concentration, he told the BBC after picking up a first prize of ($1.67 million).

The Northern Irishman joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three of golf's modern majors by the age of 25. McIlroy now just has the Masters left to complete a career Grand Slam. The lead never got less than two shots so I always thought I had a little bit of a cushion. To be three legs towards the grand slam is a pretty good achievement and it feels incredible. 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 Spaniard was right in the hunt until he suffered a calamity at the 161-yard 15th, the shortest hole at Royal Liverpool. Garcias tee shot found a deep greenside bunker and he made a heartbreaking bogey four after taking two strokes to get out. He ultimately shared runners-up spot with American Rickie Fowler on 273.

Fowler was always on the fringe of the battle as he closed with a well-crafted 67. Woods, playing among the back markers, ended his campaign with a disappointing three-over 75 for 294, six over.

Garcia has no regrets

Sergio Garcia doffed his cap, patted his heart and blew kisses to the crowd surrounding the 18th green at Royal Liverpool after clinching what ultimately would be a fourth second-place finish at a major. Another close call for golfs nearly man, but there were no tears and no regrets this time. Just pride at ensuring this was no runaway for winner Rory McIlroy at the British Open.

Garcia says, Everyone looks at a second (place) and wants to make it a negative, but I did almost everything I could. Starting his final round seven shots back from McIlroy, the Spaniard closed to within two strokes of the Northern Irishman on four occasions over the back nine.