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McIlroy: I'm the man to replace Tiger at the top

ESPN staff
July 21, 2014 « Suarez bite victim branded a baby | Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
McIlroy joins greats at Hoylake

Open champion Rory McIlroy says he is ready to take over Tiger Woods' mantle and dominate golf for the next few years.

McIlroy held his nerve on Sunday to lift the Claret Jug for the first time in front of a packed crowd around Royal Liverpool's 18th green while, earlier that afternoon, Woods slumped to his worst 72-hole finish in a major as a professional.

Rory 'the next grand slam winner'

  • Gary Player thinks Rory McIlroy can match Tiger Woods' achievements in golf and has backed the newly crowned Open champion to complete a career grand slam in the next two years.
  • McIlroy is a green jacket short of winning all four major championships, but Player insists the Northern Irishman will be the next player to achieve the feat.
  • "I said long ago he'll be the next man to win a Grand Slam. The Masters is ideally suited to him. He has so much talent," Player told Sky Sports. "I just hope he stays away from all the different coaches who have different ideas.
  • "That's not to say they're not right, but he's got to stick to his natural tendencies. I'm sure he's got a good coach, so stick with him and we're going to see some amazing things happen.
  • "Tiger [Woods] is not finished. He is one of the most focused and is the most talented men I have ever seen, but Rory is not far behind.
  • "[Rory] will complete the grand slam in the next two years. It's all about how you focus, how you work on your mind."

At 25 years and 77 days, McIlroy joins Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the three youngest players to win three of the four major championships. The Northern Irishman already has his sights on the 2015 Masters to complete a career grand slam and believes he is the one to replace Woods as the game's leading player.

"Golf is looking for someone to put their hand up and I want to be that person," McIlroy said. "I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors regularly, I'd love to be in that position. I feel like there's a lot more left in me."

It was a resilient Open Championship performance from McIlroy, who survived challenges from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler to earn his third major.

Mother Rosie was not present for the first two, his US Open win in 2011 and the US PGA Championship a year later. After sinking his winning putt on the 18th at Hoylake, McIlroy embraced his mother and later admitted he had to hold back the tears.

"Mum, this is for you," McIlroy said. "It was great to see her on the back of the 18th green and how much it meant to her. I was trying not to cry at the time because she was bawling her eyes out."

Father Gerry has also cashed in on his son's victory, having placed a £200 wager at 500-1 in 2004 for his son to win within 10 years. That bet will pay out £100,000.

"Growing up, they made big sacrifices for me. I couldn't ask to have two better parents," McIlroy said. "They're there for me at the worst of times, like this time last year after missing the cut at Muirfield, or the best of times walking off as the champion golfer of the year this year."

It was not all plain-sailing for McIlroy, though. One heckler in the Royal Liverpool crowd attempted to torment him throughout his final round. Having remained patient through his first 15 holes, McIlroy cracked on the 16th tee and had his follower ejected from the course.

"He was giving me grief all day and I put up with it for the first 15 holes," McIlroy said. "Then he deliberately coughed on my downswing on the 16th tee. I turned round and got him chucked out, so I didn't have him bothering me for the last two holes."

Another awkward moment arose off the 18th green after the trophy presentation when a young boy approached McIlroy and asked him for an autograph.

McIlroy, who at the time was on his way to sign his scorecard, appeared to ignore the fan, which caused much debate on social networking sites.

Fellow professional Ian Poulter later clarified why it may have happened via his official Twitter account:

Rory McIlroy said he held back tears after embracing mother Rosie on the 18th green at Royal Hoylake © PA Photos
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