Rory McIlroy hoisted the Claret Jug for the first time. Credit: Reuters
Rory McIlroy suffered several anxious moments but kept the jitters in check to rubber-stamp his status as the newest golfing great by landing the first British Open title of his career on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman watched Sergio Garcia (66) cut his overnight lead from six strokes to two before repelling the last-round charge by his European Ryder Cup teammate to land his third major in a tantalizing finish.
McIlroy returned a closing 71 for a 17-under total of 271 to become the third-youngest player in history to capture three of the four majors, following Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24).
"It wasn't easy today and I just needed to stay focused, in the present and keep my concentration," he told the BBC after picking up a first prize of $1.67 million.
"The lead never got less than two shots so I always thought I had a little bit of a cushion. To be three legs towards the grand slam is a pretty good achievement and it feels incredible."
Garcia, still striving to shed the unwanted tag of being one of the best players never to win a major, pushed the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 U.S. PGA Championship winner before settling for a share of second place.
The Spaniard was right in the hunt until he suffered a calamity at the 161-yard 15th, the shortest hole at Royal Liverpool.
Garcia's tee shot found a deep greenside bunker and he made a heartbreaking bogey four after taking two strokes to get out.
He ultimately shared the runner-up spot with American Rickie Fowler on 273. Fowler was always on the fringe of the battle as he closed with a five-under 67.
Woods, playing among the back markers, ended his campaign with a disappointing three-over 75 for 294, six over.
The former world No. 1 was making only his second competitive appearance since undergoing a back operation in March.