McIlroy sees off hecklers and Garcia for historic Open win
Northern Irishman has fan ejected as he joins Woods and Nicklaus in major elite club
On a thrilling day at Hoylake Rory McIlroy held his nerve to win his first Open Championship and claim his third major title at the tender age of 25.
The Northern Irishman joins Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in the exclusive club of players to win three of golf's modern majors by that age. Having won the US Open in 2011 and the PGA Championship in 2012, McIlroy now needs just the Masters to complete a career Grand Slam, a feat achieved only by Woods, Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen. He is also the first European to win three of the four majors.
"It feels incredible," McIlroy said after his two-shot victory in Liverpool. "It wasn't easy - there were a few guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused. To win three legs of the Grand Slam at 25 is a pretty big achievement."
Not that McIlroy's victory wasn't without drama. He started the final day with a six-shot lead over American Rickie Fowler but it was Spain's Sergio Garcia who proved to be McIlroy's biggest challenger.
The 34-year-old Spaniard, yet to win a major in 61 attempts, picked up two shots in the first three holes and maintained the pressure as McIlroy began to wobble. A dropped shot on the sixth hole, allied to Garcia's precision play, cut the Irishman's lead to three, and when the Spaniard eagled the par-five 10th he was within two shots of the frontrunner.
But just as an upset started to loom Garcia blinked. On the short 15th he carded a bogey four to leave his title hopes teetering on the edge, and it wasn't just Garcia who was succumbing to the extraordinary tension.
Several spectators spoiled the final day with their heckling and foolish behaviour, and on the 16th tee McIlroy had stewards eject a man for allegedly trying to distract him during his drive. But amid the maelstrom, the youngster kept cool to reach the 18th hole with a three-shot lead over Garcia and Fowler, who had struggled earlier on.
A par five on the final hole was enough to see McIlroy home to the delight of his mum, waiting for him at the 18th green. "This is the first major my mum has been to that I've won, so mum, this one's for you," McIloy said later, adding: "I just can't wait to get back and defend this thing at St Andrews next year."
Asked about how he handled the pressure of the occasion, McIlroy replied: "The lead never got less than two, I always felt I had that little cushion. Coming into the back nine I know I had holes where I could make birdie. Sixteen was the hole that settled the championship I think."
Along with the famous claret jug, McIlroy also picked up a cheque for £975,000. And his dad is also in the money thanks to his son's incredible talent. Ten years ago, Gerry McIlroy and three friends bet £400 at odds of 500-1 that Rory would win the Open by the time he turned 26.
"I don't think it matters to my dad so much but the few mates he did the bet with will be very happy," said McIlroy.