AKRON — Winning the British Open wasn’t enough to make Rory McIlroy want to take the rest of the year off to celebrate. Neither was the first World Golf Championship he won Sunday at Firestone.
Another major awaits next week. McIlroy can’t wait to get there.
Two weeks after his wire-to-wire win at Royal Liverpool, McIlroy took his game from the links of Britain to the parkland of America and made the game look just as easy. With another powerful performance, he wiped out a 3-shot deficit to Sergio Garcia in three holes, closed with a 4-under 66 and returned to No. 1 in the world with a 2-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational.
He looked just as good as the last time he reached No. 1 in the world during his torrid stretch at the end of 2012.
“This is better,” he said. “Mentally, I’m really sharp. I didn’t start to think about score. I didn’t think about where I was in the tournament. I just playing shot after shot after shot. So yeah, it’s good.”
Garcia wasn’t at his best and closed with a 71. He’s not sure it would have mattered.
“Everybody saw it,” Garcia said. “He played very, very well. He drove the ball miles and very, very straight for the most part. He gave himself a lot of birdie looks.”
McIlroy finished the third round with two straight birdies and not even one day and a rain delay slowed him. He punched an 8-iron out of the rough, under the trees and up the slope to an elevated green to 3 feet to open with a birdie. He drilled a 4-iron from 219 yards into 25 feet for a 2-putt birdie at the second, then followed with a gap wedge to 8 feet for a third straight birdie. Garcia made bogey from the rough and just like that, he was trailing. The Spaniard never caught up.
McIlroy became the 13th player with a major and a World Golf Championship and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win them in consecutive starts.
Woods wasn’t around to see it.
Four months after back surgery — and in his third tournament since his return — Woods injured his lower back when he landed with a thud in the stand from an awkward stance atop a bunker on the second hole. He withdrew after a tee shot on the ninth hole, bending over slowly and struggling to remove the tee from the ground.
It was not clear he Woods could play in the PGA Championship next week.
McIlroy heads south to Valhalla with a full head of steam. After a brief celebration with the claret jug, he was determined to move forward and chase more titles over the final four months of the year. He backed it up with a powerful performance on a soggy Firestone course to take the top spot in the world from Adam Scott.
McIlroy finished at 15-under 265 and won $1.53 million, leaving him $765 short of Bubba Watson on the PGA Tour money list.
More important was the world ranking.