AKRON, Ohio -- It took Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy just three holes Sunday to overtake Spain's Sergio Garcia and assert himself as the player to beat in the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
McIlroy birdied the first three holes, and coupled with Garcia's pars on the opening two holes and a bogey on the third hole, a 3-shot deficit became a 1-shot lead.
McIlroy maintained the edge and added another shot advantage to win the title on the South Course at Firestone Country Club with a final round score of 66 to Garcia's 71. McIlroy's final score was a 15-under-par 265, which netted him the first-place prize of $1.53 million. Garcia finished at 13-under 267 and left Akron with $900,000.
"This is one of my favorite tournaments and I have always wanted to win here," McIlroy said to spectators gathered on No. 18 as he held the winner's Gary Player Cup.
"1/8Announcers3/8 mentioned Johnny Football 1/8Manziel3/8 and LeBron James 1/8and their affiliations with the Browns and Cavaliers3/8, that's a little lofty company for me, but I'll take it. This part of Ohio is booming lately."
McIlroy is also booming as this was his second victory in a row after winning ahead of second-place Garcia at the British Open by 2 shots at Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake last month. McIlroy also jumped to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, surpassing Australian Adam Scott, who finished tied for eighth Sunday and is now No. 2.
"It really started 1/8Saturday3/8 night, birdieing those final two holes after the rain delay and then coming out today and birdieing the first three," McIlroy said. "So, playing that 5-hole stretch at 5 under par really set me up to have a great chance to win this golf tournament."
Garcia had a 3-shot advantage when the two teed off at 3:20 p.m. on No. 1 after rain earlier in the day delayed the event for one hour and 15 minutes. McIlroy pounced quickly with his heroics on the first three holes.
"That was a really important stretch of the golf tournament," McIlroy said. "The final two last night, and the way I started today, 4 under through the first five, I just started really, really well. Put some pressure on Sergio early. I rode my luck a little bit on the back nine."
Garcia, ranked No. 3 in the world, made a birdie on No. 9, but bogeyed 15.
"Rory played really, really well," Garcia said. "He shot quite comfortable, 66. I felt like I played OK, not amazing, but obviously, I didn't feel comfortable on the greens at all. With the spin of the greens changing quite dramatically after rain, they got a little bit -- they were quite slow from the last three days. Unfortunately, I just -- I couldn't get it."
McIlroy, who bogeyed No. 8 and birdied 11, found the course conditions to his liking.
"I was licking my lips when I saw this place," McIlroy said. "It's soft, and these are my conditions. This is my bread and butter. This is what I really enjoy, ball through the air and target golf."
McIlroy also credited his drives off the tee as being "the foundation" of his game, and was thankful his father was in attendance to watch him play.
"It's the most comfortable I've ever felt trying to close out a golf tournament out there today," McIlroy said. "I felt normal. I felt like it was the first round or the second round. It didn't feel like a fourth round ... I didn't get ahead of myself. I didn't start to think about score."
Australian Marc Leishman finished third at 12 under par. He shot 67 Sunday with six birdies and three bogeys, and earned $522,000.
South African Charl Schwartzel shot a 64 to tie for fourth at 9 under for the tournament with Americans Keegan Bradley and Patrick Reed and England's Justin Rose.
Scott and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell finished at 7 under to tie for eighth place with Americans Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore.
Americans Matt Kuchar and American Brandt Snedeker joined Japan's Hideki Matsuyama for a tie for 12th at 6 under.
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