Rory McIlroy holds on for Claret Jug victory

Sergio Garcia gave Rory McIlroy a fright on Sunday
Sergio Garcia gave Rory McIlroy a fright on Sunday
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The lead was trimmed to just two shots, but McIlroy birdied the 16th and held off the challenge to join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men to win three majors by the age of 25.

Rory McIlroy sealed the third leg of a career Grand Slam in the majors by winning The Open at Hoylake on Sunday.

Taking a six-shot lead into the final round, McIlroy looked to be on course for a cruise when he birdied the opening hole.

However, dropped shots at the fifth and sixth combined with a charge from Sergio Garcia brought the race for the Claret Jug to life with nine holes to play.

The lead was trimmed to just two shots, but McIlroy birdied the 16th and held off the challenge to join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men to win three majors by the age of 25.

A final round of 71 brought McIlroy home two clear of the field on 17-under par.

Garcia and Rickie Fowler shared second spot after some sparkling Sunday play saw the pair record closing rounds of 66 and 67 respectively.

Jim Furyk and Marc Leishman equalled the best rounds of the week in shooting 65 on Sunday to finish fourth and tied-fifth.

World number one Adam Scott played the back nine in five-under par to finish alongside compatriot Leishman.

Charl Schwartzel and Edoardo Molinari shared seventh spot on 11-under par.

McIlroy was not to be denied and his win makes him the first European player to win three of golf's four major titles.

The critics had long since rounded on McIlroy's inability to cope with links golf.

Some of his prior comments suggested the player himself did not have the stomach to adapt for the challenges of the summer.

After completing his success however, McIlroy appeared to backtrack on his earlier feelings, declaring the Open Championship as 'the one we all want to win'.

The new champion immediately said he was intent on successfully defending the Claret Jug at St Andrews in 12 months' time.

The final round was to be no procession, with Garcia playing the first ten holes in five-under par to apply the pressure on the leader.

Garcia's critics will claim the Spaniard stalled once more when an opportunity to win presented itself.

After a bogey at the 15th, he failed to get his eagle attempt at 16 and birdie putt at 17 to the hole.

Those efforts are perhaps symbolic of the reasons Garcia has failed to convert any of his 19 top tens in major championships into victories.

Protecting a big lead, McIlroy seemed shackled compared with the player who dominated the field for three days.

His final round 71 was unsurprisingly his worst of the week.

A hooked tee-shot at the par-three 13th appeared to signal the pressure might be building on the leader as he made his third bogey of the round.

Thereafter McIlroy was the model professional though, and his two-putt birdie on the 16th relieved some of the tension.

Standing on the final tee with a three shot advantage, McIlroy elected for the safety of an iron.

His second shot found the front bunker and he came close to successive eagles at the final hole when his pitch caught the lip.

With playing partner Fowler and Garcia in the penultimate group both making birdies, the advantage was reduced to two shots but McIlroy had done enough as he closed with a par.

McIlroy was not the only man celebrating, with his father Gerry and a group of friends said to be in line for a £200,000 windfall after they backed the then 15-year-old at 500/1 to land the Claret Jug before his 26th birthday.

The Hoylake victory will elevate McIlroy to number two in the world rankings when they are released on Monday morning.

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