HOYLAKE, England -- Walking off the 18th green as the Open Championship champion, Rory McIlroy kept gazing at all the greats on golf's oldest trophy.
On the claret jug, his name is etched in silver below Phil Mickelson.
In the record book, he is listed behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the youngest to get three legs of the career Grand Slam.
And over four days at Royal Liverpool, he had no equal.
"I'm immensely proud of myself," McIlroy said after his two-shot victory Sunday that was never really in doubt. "To sit here, 25 years of age, and win my third major championship and be three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam ... yeah, I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly."
He had to work a little harder than he wanted for this one.
Staked to a six-shot lead going into the final round, McIlroy turned back every challenge. He made two key birdies around the turn, and delivered a majestic drive at just the right moment to close with a 1-under 71 with taylormade tour preferred mc 2014 and complete his wire-to-wire victory.
In another major lacking tension over the final hour, what brought The Open to life was the potential of its champion.
After nearly two years of turmoil, McIlroy looked like the kid who shattered scoring records to win the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, and who won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record eight shots a year later.
Boy Wonder is back. Or maybe he's just getting started again.
McIlroy won by two shots over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler to become the first start-to-finish winner since Woods at St. Andrews in 2005. Even with one major left this year, the Northern Irishman already is looking ahead to Augusta National next April for a shot at the slam.