By Mark Kendall. Last Updated: 22/07/14 9:49am
Rory McIlroy celebrates his victory at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
It was not quite the procession many had predicted, but come Sunday evening at Royal Liverpool it was Rory McIlroy holding aloft the Claret Jug as he completed a memorable wire-to-wire victory at the Open Championship.
The Northern Irishman did not prove quite as fluent as over the first three days of competition, but a closing 71 was still good enough to keep his rivals at bay as he sealed a two-stroke victory.
At the age of 25 McIlroy already has three majors tucked away and a career grand slam beckons with a Green Jacket the only item now needed to complete the most exclusive of collections.
As the golfing world reflects on a quite superb week on Merseyside and a champion to savour, we take a look back at what some of the leading contenders had to say about a day that saw McIlroy underline his status as a genuine superstar of the game.
As he sat facing the assembled media with the Claret Jug at his side, a beaming Rory McIlroy admitted his success at Hoylake was still to properly sink in. The Northern Irishman endured a minor wobble on the front nine after bogeys at five and six, but identified a crucial par at the seventh as a turning point, allowing him to keep his rivals at arm’s length. Having closed out victory, McIlroy was even able to reveal to the press pack the two trigger words that he claims kept him focused all week…
Having finished with a round of 67 that enabled him to secure a top-10 finish, Graeme McDowell had plenty to smile about on Sunday evening, but the Northern Irishman was keen to pay tribute to his compatriot, and the new champion, Rory McIlroy. Pondering whether McIlroy could now go on and follow in the footsteps of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, G-Mac admitted there were still perhaps questions for Rory to answer. However, with a heavy dollop of understatement, McDowell insisted the brilliant McIlroy was already creating a legend of his own as he commented: “Third leg of the grand slam at 25 years old, that’s pretty good.”
It was not quite the defence Phil Mickelson would have hoped for, but the American insisted he had performed just about as well as he could at Royal Liverpool. Having been caught on the wrong side of the draw for the first couple of days, Lefty felt he did not quite get the breaks you need to emerge as Open champion, but feels his game is not far away at present. But however close it may be, Mickelson hailed McIlroy a worthy champion, claiming the 25-year-old had been in complete control of his game throughout the week.
After a 69 on Thursday, Tiger Woods had threatened to contend at a major for which most people had written him off. That would prove the highlight of his week, though, as rustiness after back surgery eventually caught up with him, the American finishing fourth last of those players to make the halfway cut at six-over-par. But Woods was adamant there were positives for him to take as he builds back towards full fitness and believes his sharpness will return in the weeks ahead. “Obviously there are a lot of things I need to work on, but I’m only getting stronger and faster which is great, I just need more game time.”
Rickie Fowler is proving a major specialist this season with another big result at Hoylake
Having finished in the top-five of every major this year, and runner-up at the last two, Rickie Fowler has underlined his status as one of the game’s great young talents. Playing alongside fellow 25-year-old McIlroy in Sunday’s final group, the American wasn’t quite able to exert sufficient early pressure on his playing partner to force his way into genuine contention. But the California native was delighted with his week’s work and was even able to admit it was “pretty cool” to see his friend McIlroy emerge triumphant.
Sergio Garcia was happy to take the positives after he closed with a 66
Another near miss for Sergio Garcia who claimed his fourth runner-up finish at a major. But there were no tears or recriminations this time around, just a level of satisfaction that he had done his very best to test McIlroy’s nerve in the final round. A costly and untimely bogey at 15 fatally flawed the Spaniard’s late push, but he insisted afterwards he would be taking the positives, stating: "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.”
Ewen Murray hails golf's new era, but says it's too soon to say if Tiger can challenge Rory and the new breed.
Ewen Murray hails golf's new era, but says it's too soon to say if Tiger can challenge the new breed.
Colin Montgomerie believes Rory McIlroy will win plenty more majors and become Britain's greatest golfer