Rory McIlroy is edging his way towards recognition as one of the all time greats of golf with a two shot victory at the Open Championship over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, in fact he has now probably every right to be included in that group.
The victory gives McIlroy his third of the four Grand Slam majors, each of them secured with emphatic victories.
Sure, this week's Open Championship was by only two shots compared to the massive eight shot winning margins at the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship but at Royal Liverpool he led throughout, being caught only briefly midway through round three by Rickie Fowler before moving six shots clear entering the final round.
A large lead can often be more dangerous than a much smaller one because of the mindset involved but when he birdied the first it appeared as if it might develop into a walk in the park for the 25 year old. With conditions again good for low scoring however those behind began to make their runs.
Sergio Garcia threw out a strong bid for his first major title when he birdied three of his first five holes and when he then eagled the 10th, he was at 14 under and had moved within two of McIlroy.
McIlroy, after a relatively slow start, answered the threat in the best way possible with birdies of his own at the 9th and 10th and the margin was three again but when McIlroy bogeyed the 13th he was two ahead with five to play. Garcia made a potentially costly mistake when he found bunker trouble at the 15th and three ahead with just four to play, McIlroy, in the group behind, only need to play cautiously to claim the title.
Garcia birdied the 16th and 18th to set the target at 15 under but although he was unable to birdie the juicy 16th, McIlroy still enjoyed a two shot advantage playing the last.
An iron from the tee to perhaps take out bunkering and out of bounds issues, McIlroy was still within range of the green and although he blocked his approach to the right and missed the green he hit a magnificent bunker shot to ten feet. He then effectively had three putts to win but took only two and the title was his by two.
"It feels absolutely incredible," said McIlroy. "It is sort of cool that they put your name on that before you even get it," he added looking at the trophy.
"It's been an incredible week. I am happy I gave myself enough of a cushion today because there were a lot of guys coming at me.
"Holes 7, 8, 9 and 10 were crucial for me today. Getting up and down on 7, playing two great shots into 8 and making par and the birdie on 9 and 10 were big especially with Sergio pushing hard with an eagle on 10. It kept me a couple of shots to the good.
"It was a case of "˜process and spot' today and not worrying about the end result. I was focusing on the swing and the process and in terms of the spot I was picking a spot on the greens and rolling it over my spot every time. I wasn't thinking about holing it or what it would mean or how much further ahead it would get me but I just wanted to roll it over that spot.
"Process and spot was all I kept telling myself all week.
"I've really found my passion again for golf. Not that it ever really dwindled but it is now what I think about when I get up in the morning and what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer I can be and if I can do that then I know trophies like this are within my capabilities.
"Even though there is still one more major this year which I desperately want to win I am looking forward to driving up Magnolia Lane next April and trying to complete the Grand Slam.
"After this I now want to think ahead and want to go on and win as many tournaments and majors as I can as I feel there are a lot more left in me.
"I am immensely proud of myself. To sit here at the age of 25 with three majors and be Ã‚Â¾ of the way to the Grand Slam - I never dreamed of being at this point of my career so quickly."
Garcia was likely disappointed by not breaking through today but he rightly was putting a very positive spin on things. "Everyone looks at you at second and they want to make it a negative but not at all," said the Spaniard. "I felt like I played well and did almost everything I could but he (McIlroy) played better "“ it is as simple as that."
McIlroy's playing partner, Fowler, birdied three of his last four holes to join Garcia in second position and record his third top ten in major championship golf this season.
"I didn't get off the start I wanted to given the way the front nine was playing with a couple of the holes down wind and a chance to get some birdies going ," said Fowler. "But I am definitely pleased with the way I hung in there and fought it out but I guess I got on the gas a little late."
Adam Scott and Marc Lieshman had outstanding tournaments when they tied for 5th, Leishman recording by far his best effort in an Open Championship and while Scott might have been disadvantaged by the late/early draw on the opening two days it was yet another great major championship finish.
Matt Jones was 54th, John Senden and Jason Day 58th and Rhein Gibson 72nd.
The PGA Tour heads to Montreal for this week's Canadian Open while the European Tour takes its chances in Russia for the Russian Open.
About The Author : Bruce Young
A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.