Rory Mcllroy sank a par putt on the 72nd hole Sunday for a final round 71 and the title of Open Champion, but if you asked some of his closest competitors it was over long before that.
That’s because throughout the week that was Rory’s Wild Ride at Royal Liverpool, the Palm Beach Gardens resident never seemed to falter no matter who tried to make a move. It was Mcllroy’s to lose from the second the first tee shot was hit on Thursday to the time the last putt was sunk on Sunday evening. No matter how many times you thought a bad shot or a bad break would be the end of him, he continued to push on with clutch putt after clutch putt and made those who were chasing him feeling hopeless and defeated.
“I got within two,” Sergio said after his round Sunday, “but to me, it never felt that close.”
Speaking of Fowler, at one point in the third round he managed to catch Mcllroy and tie it up, even if it was just for a brief moment. Once again, Mcllroy stayed calm. He responded with eagles at the par-5 16th and 18th to get back up to the 6 shot lead that he would have going into Sunday.
It was more than just his fellow competitors that Rory had to overcome this week as well. He had to beat his own demons that have affected him on the course throughout his 2014 season. Entering The Open, the Northern Irishman lead the PGA Tour in first round scoring average at 68. The second round, well that was a whole other story. His second round average was four strokes higher at 72.9 and was good for 181st on Tour. In addition, he came off a week at the Scottish Open where he followed up his first round 64 with a second round 78.
So of course when he shot a 66 in the first round at Hoylake to take the lead on Thursday, all anyone wanted to talk to Mcllroy about was his Friday struggles.
“I had a bad Friday afternoon at Augusta, and just made the cut,” Mcllroy said after his round Thursday. “And then I started off horrifically at Quail Hollow on Friday afternoon. And then did the same thing (at The Players) at Sawgrass. That’s like three tournaments in a row. That’s when I was conscious of it. I was 3-over through nine on Friday at Wentworth, and then I was able to get it back in form. And then Memorial obviously was the biggest one. There’s nothing really to it. It’s just maybe having higher expectations going out on a Friday because you shot a low round, and just trying to put those expectations aside and just try and take it one hole at a time.”
Mcllroy quieted all the detractors on Friday when he went out and shot a second round 66 to match his total from the first round and looked completely unfazed while doing it. Every time he hit a bad shot and you thought the collapse was going to start he hit a clutch putt or chip to salvage the hole and minimize the damage.
With Friday in the rear view mirror, Mcllroy dominated the weekend like he has done so many times this year. The Saturday 68 was highlighted with those eagles at 16 and 18 that gave him the 6 shot cushion that ultimately lead to his victory. His Sunday 71 was enough to hold off Fowler and Garcia as the tried to inch closer and closer to him. In the end, it was two words that got the 25 year old through his week and 3/4 of the way to the career grand slam: “process” and “spot”.
Now, at only 25, Mcllroy is the proud owner of the Claret Jug for the next 12 months and is only a Masters victory away from completing the career grand slam. Oh and he joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the third youngest to win three majors.
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