As Rory McIlroy stood on the first tee before his final round in the 2014 British Open Golf Championship at Hoylake, he must have been quietly confident that his six stroke lead would be sufficient for him to win his third Major. Two eagles in the final three holes of his third round had been had been the decisive moments in allowing the Northern Irishman to build his commanding lead and which would necessitate his nearest challengers to attack the links course on the Wirral peninsula.
Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler began the final round seven and six shots respectively adrift of McIlroy and were offered some hope of closing the gap when the leader bogeyed both the fifth and sixth holes. McIlroy regained his composure but as the golfers neared the back nine holes of the course, Garcia was edging closer to the leader and the gap had narrowed to two shots at the 13th hole.
McIlroy was playing a rather conservative game, realising that the onus was on his challengers to bridge the deficit but when Garcia squandered a shot with an error at the 15th green bunker, the mood of the Spaniard appeared to change in accepting the inevitable defeat.
For the final three holes, McIlroy was content to bide his time without taking too many chances. His final winning margin of two strokes from Garcia and Fowler was more comfortable than appears on paper with his fourth round being the first occasion in which he had failed to complete in less than 70 strokes.
A total aggregate score of 17 under par is certainly an impressive performance but without removing credit for the golfing displays during this week, Hoylake is arguably one of the more benign of the British Open links courses with its flattish greens and moderate rough. The sea winds which are often a feature of Open Championships were also calmer than usual during the majority of the week.
Yet the conditions were the same for all competitors and this was McIlroy’s third Major tournament victory after winning both the US Open and US PGA in recent years and he becomes only the third golfer to win three Majors by the age of 25. He joins the illustrious company of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in achieving this feat.
Now that he has won his third Major, McIlroy will be focussed on winning the coved US Masters title next spring to become only the sixth golfer to win all four prestigious competitions. After such a mature and composed display at Hoylake this week, few would bet against McIlroy winning the Masters especially his father who wagered that his son would win the British Open within 10 years when McIlroy was only 15 years old.
What odds will now be offered on McIlroy securing his personal Grand Slam in the not too distant future?