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Rory McIlroy wins British Open for 3rd major

HOYLAKE, England -- Rory McIlroy had to work a little harder, sweat a little more. No matter. Just like his other two majors, this British Open was never really in doubt.

Staked to a six-shot lead going into the final round, McIlroy turned back brief challenges with key birdies around the turn and a majestic drive at just the right moment to close with a 1-under 71 and complete a wire-to-wire victory at Royal Liverpool.

In another major lacking drama over the final hour, what brought the British Open to life was the potential of its champion.

McIlroy won the U.S. Open by eight shots. He won the PGA Championship by eight shots.

And with his two-shot victory over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland joined some elite company beyond the names on that silver claret jug. Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24) are the only other players since 1934 to win three majors before age 25.

Boy Wonder is back. Or maybe he's just getting started again.

“I've really found my passion again for golf,” McIlroy said. “Not that it ever dwindled, but it's what I think about when I get up in the morning. It's what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer that I can be. And I know if I can do that, then trophies like this are within my capability.”

McIlroy put an end to this major with a powerful drive down the fairway at the par-5 16th, setting up a two-putt birdie to restore his lead to three shots. He finished with two pars, the last putt from inches away.

McIlroy simply smiled, shared hugs with his caddie and Fowler, and then waved mother Rosie onto the green. She was not at the other two majors he won. He turned and applauded the fans in the horseshoe arena around the 18th green, and then returned to collect the oldest trophy in golf.

This could have been another romp except for a shaky stretch early for McIlroy, and solid efforts from Garcia and Fowler.

Garcia pulled within two shots with four holes to play until he put his tee shot in a pot bunker just right of the 15th green. His first shot failed to get over the 4-foot sodden wall and rolled back into the sand. He made bogey, and two birdies over the final three holes were not enough. Garcia shot 66 and was runner-up in a major for the fourth time.

“I think that we gave it a good effort,” Garcia said. “And there was someone a little bit better.”

Fowler, playing in the final group for the second straight major, didn't do anything wrong. He just didn't do enough right to make up a six-shot deficit. Fowler played without a bogey and shot 67.

All that's left for McIlroy to become the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam is a green jacket from the Masters.

“I don't have any doubt he'll win there,” Fowler said. “I just hope I get that one before he does.”

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 Rory McIlroy wins British Open for 3rd major 
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Sunday, July 20. (AP)

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