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History of The Open

'Best feeling in the world'


Rory McIlroy on Open glory in 2014

Rory McIlroy poses with the Claret Jug after winning The Open in 2014

Rory McIlroy has enjoyed a plethora of special moments in his trophy-laden career.

Twenty-four PGA Tour victories, famous days in the Ryder Cup, prolonged spells as world number one and four major titles.

His journey to golfing greatness was kick-started by his victory in the US Open in 2011.

He then claimed the PGA Championship crown in 2012, a title he would go on to win again two years later.

But there’s one episode in the Northern Irishman’s back catalogue which stands out from all the others; winning the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

“That’s the coolest thing; you get announced as the Champion Golfer of the Year,” said McIlroy on a special episode of The Open Podcasts.

“Anyone who plays this sport and has aspirations of getting to the top level, that is how you want your name mentioned at some point.

“To be called the Champion Golfer of the Year and to have a Claret Jug in your house; it’s one of the greatest honours in our sport.

“To have the Gold Medal, to have the Claret Jug, to have your name on a trophy with the likes of Old Tom Morris or [Harry] Vardon, or [Ben] Hogan, or [Jack] Nicklaus, or [Arnold] Palmer, or [Gary] Player, [Tom] Watson, [Lee] Trevino, all the way through to Tiger Woods… the titans of our sport, the greats of our game have all got their hands on [the] Claret Jug.

“To be able to put your name alongside them is the best feeling in the world as far as I’m concerned.”

McIlroy’s capture of the Claret Jug came courtesy of a wire-to-wire triumph – making him just the seventh man in history to lead the way for all four rounds of an Open Championship.

He flew out of the blocks with a six-under 66, a score he repeated in round two. So imperious was the County Down native that he dropped just one shot in the opening 36 holes.

Despite the formidable start, McIlroy believes his 68 on the Saturday was actually his most important round at Hoylake, the venue for The 151st Open.

He said: “Every tournament that you win, you look back and there [are] pivotal moments.

“The way I played the last few holes on the Saturday… it was huge.”

McIlroy laboured early on moving day, finding just one birdie on the front nine. With Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia threatening in behind, McIlroy suddenly found another gear, sinking a long birdie putt on 14 to reassert his authority.

Then followed a sublime conclusion to his third round, with two eagles in the final three holes, including a 5-iron into the 18th which he cites as one of the best shots of his career.

Rory McIlroy hits a 5-iron down the 18th fairway at Royal Liverpool during The Open in 2014.

Rory McIlroy unloads a 5-iron into the 18th green at Hoylake

McIlroy said: “The way I played the two par-5s coming in, 16 and 18; a 4-iron into 16 and a 5-iron into the last. Those two shots just sort of showed how in control of my swing and my game I was.

“That eagle [on 18] gave me that six-shot cushion. It was really important.

“Under pressure, hitting long irons isn’t the easiest thing to do in golf [but] when you know you’re in control of your swing it sort of makes everything a little bit easier.

“I wasn’t necessarily playing for eagles. I think when you go for a par-5 in two your first thought is to just get it on the green. You’re not really going for the pin, you’re just getting it on the green and giving yourself a putt.

“So that’s all I was trying to do [on] those two holes, I just hit really, really good iron shots to set myself up, but I still needed to make the putts after that to convert.

“It wasn’t quite the Championship, but it put one hand on the Claret Jug for me.

“I just needed to go out on Sunday and not do anything stupid, and that’s basically what I did. I could play quite conservatively and know that if I made a couple of mistakes it was probably going to be OK.

“That Saturday afternoon was huge.”

McIlroy has already cemented his place among golf’s pantheon of greats, but that exalted status has not stemmed his thirst for further major glory.

He said: “It’s nice to have your name on [the Claret Jug] once. I’d love to have it on there a few more times.

“You look at a Tom Watson or a Peter Thomson or Jack or Tiger, or any of these guys that have got multiple Claret Jugs… you want to put your name alongside those guys.

“The Open that I won in ’14 seems like a long time ago now. I’m really happy that I have my name on there once, but I’d love to be able to put my name on there again.”