As Rory McIlroy went on his triumphal march through the final 18 holes at Royal Liverpool today, two Australians had reason to be proud of top-five finishes in the Open Championship.
Victorian Marc Leishman rattled home with a seven-under-par 65 and world No. 1 Adam Scott also played his best round of the week with a 66 to tie for fifth, five shots behind the Northern Irishman.
While neither player actually contended, for the 30-year-old Leishman, it is his second strong finish in a major, after he was fourth in the Masters at Augusta National in 2013. For Scott, it was validation of his world ranking after the weather conspired against him at Hoylake.
The Queenslander was the only player from the late starters on Thursday, when the wind came up, then the early draw on Friday, who finished anywhere near the lead. By comparison McIlroy, who played in breathless conditions on Thursday and then dodged the winds on Friday too, had a dream draw.
McIlroy started with a six-shot lead and the buffer, birdied the first hole to make it seven shots, and was never threatened in winning his third major championship, and his first Open Championship at just 25 years of age. It goes with his US Open and US PGA titles, and leaves only the US Open of the big four that he has not secured.
After closing with a 71 he thanked his parents, who watched the completion of the Open, and his father Gerry will be delighted to collect his share of a whopping 200,000 pounds ($360,000) won on a bet taken 10 years ago that his son would win an Open before he was 26. Gerry McIlroy extracted 500-1 odds from the bookmaker, invested 100 pounds himself, and convinced three other friends to do the same.
Sergio Garcia (66) and Rickie Fowler (67) tied for second at 15-under, two shots back. "The lead never got less than two, so I always thought I had that bit of a cushion,'' McIlroy said.
Former world No. 1 Tiger Woods closed with a 75 to finish 69th at five-over-par in his return to major championship golf after back surgery earlier this year. Woods was upbeat about his week. "
I’m encouraged,'' he said. "I’ve got more game time under my belt.''