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At 25, a New King of Timeworn Ground
By SP_COP on July 21, 2014 | From www.nytimes.com
At 25, a New King of Timeworn Ground By the standards of final British Open chapters, this was no major thriller, but it was not the relaxed Sunday stroll around Royal Liverpool that it might have been for Rory McIlroy.

His lead, as imposing as seven strokes in the early stages of the fourth round, was down to two with five holes to play. It was still only two when he knocked his final approach shot of the tournament into an awkward spot in a greenside bunker at the 18th hole.

But McIlroy, the prodigy from Northern Ireland who once cracked under final-round pressure at Augusta National, bent without breaking in this championship venue much closer to his roots.

“The Open is the one that we all want, the one we all strive for,” McIlroy said in his postvictory remarks, which were warmly received by the predominantly Liverpudlian crowd until he mentioned that he was a Manchester United fan.

That brave comment was in keeping with his bold performance. Still just 25, he won his first British Open by breaking par in every round, finishing with a 17-under-par total of 271.

He led from start to finish and won by piling up birdies and eagles on the course’s par 5s, playing with brio when it was possible and with caution when it was required. He won with his deft short game as well as his long driving, holding off a robust final-round challenge from Sergio García and Rickie Fowler, who finished in a tie for second at 15 under.

García, playing in the penultimate group, shot a 66. Fowler, who also finished in a tie for second at the United States Open, shot a 67 while playing in the final pairing with McIlroy, often chatting and joking with him.

McIlroy could do no better than a 71 on a par-72 course, but that was enough for him to secure the claret jug.

“I’m happy I gave myself enough of a cushion today because there were a lot of guys coming at me, especially Sergio and Rickie,” McIlroy said.

His victory put the accent back on youth at a tournament won the last three years by men in their 40s: Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson. This year, the closest the 40-somethings got to the jug was the fourth-place finish of Jim Furyk, who was 13 under at 44.

McIlroy is the third-youngest man to win three of the four major tournaments. The youngest were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, who also happen to have won more majors than any other men.

Nicklaus, long retired from tour-level golf, has 18 titles. Woods, who won the last Open staged at Royal Liverpool, in 2006, remains at 14 after struggling at this tournament. He was 18 under at Hoylake in 2006. He finished at six over this year, his closing 75 leaving him 23 strokes behind the winner.

McIlroy may never match the breadth and depth of Nicklaus’s and Woods’s achievements; this is an era brimming with global talent in which domination has proved elusive. But McIlroy made his intentions clear on Sunday.

“Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and try,” he said. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.”
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He was a flickering flame on Sunday, which he began with a six-shot lead over Fowler after a crescendo finish on Saturday, punctuated by eagles on Nos. 16 and 18....
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NAMES: Rory McIlroy