AKRON, Ohio -- 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 victory 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. He wiped out a three-shot deficit to Sergio Garcia in three holes, closed with a 4-under 66 and returned to No. 1 in the world with a two-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational.
McIlroy joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win a major and a World Golf Championship event 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 Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., with a full head of steam.
He intentionally kept his celebration with claret jug brief, 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.
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."
McIlroy finished the third round with two consecutive birdies, and a one-hour rain delay didn't slow 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 two-putt birdie at the second, and then followed with a gap wedge to 8 feet for a third consecutive birdie. Garcia made bogey from the rough, and just like that, he was trailing. The Spaniard never caught up.
"That's the most pleasing thing about this week is not dwelling about what happened at Hoylake," he said. "That's what I'll have to do after this, as well. I've just got to keep moving forward. It's great to have a chance to try to go there to win three in a row. But if you'd have asked me what I'm proudest of this week, it's the mind-set that I took into here of not being complacent. I wanted to come here and really contend."
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 to him was the world ranking.
He lost the No. 1 position in March 2013 when his game was in a downward spiral as he was adjusting to a new equipment deal and going through a management change. But since winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth at May, his game looks as strong as ever.
"Obviously, Rory is in incredible form at the moment," Scott said. "He'll be the man to beat next week by the look of things. And I'll be gunning for him, for sure."
Garcia was a runner-up to McIlroy for the second consecutive time.
The Spaniard had the daunting task of making up a seven-shot deficit at the British Open, and Garcia put up a fight until finishing two shots behind at Hoylake. Staked to at three-shot lead at Firestone, it didn't go much better.
Garcia missed a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 second hole with a putt that never looked as if it was going in on his way to a 71. His only birdie, on the ninth hole, gave him a share of the lead. McIlroy answered with an 8-foot birdie on No. 11 and was on his way.
Patrick Reed holed out for eagle on No. 17 in his round of 65 and gave him a tie for fourth, enough to move him up to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings and boost his hopes of making his first team with only the PGA Championship left in the qualifying period.
Phil Mickelson started the day 17 shots behind Garcia at 3 over for the tournament, but closed with an 8-under 62, his career best at Firestone, and ended up tied for 15th at 5 under.
Sports on 08/04/2014
Print Headline: Winner and wincer/McIlroy No. 1 again; Woods backs out at 9