AKRON, Ohio — From links of Britain to the parkland of America, Rory McIlroy is on top of the world again.
In his first start since a wire-to-wire win at the British Open, McIlroy wiped out a three-shot deficit in only three holes and closed with a 4-under 66 on Sunday to win the Bridgestone Invitational and return to No. 1 in the world.
And just like at Royal Liverpool two weeks ago, Boy Wonder made it look easy.
Sergio Garcia had a three-shot lead going into the final round at Firestone. McIlroy fired off three straight birdies and already had the lead when he stood on the fourth tee. He took over the lead for good with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole, got some breathing room when Garcia made bogey on the 15th hole, and the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland cruised home to a two-shot victory.
Garcia closed with a 71, though his runner-up finish was enough to move him to No. 3 in the world.
McIlroy became the 13th player with a major and a World Golf Championship, and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win them in consecutive starts.
McIlroy heads south to Valhalla with a full head of steam. After a brief celebration with the claret jug, he was 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.
McIlroy finished at 15-under 265 and won $1.4 million, leaving him $765 short of Bubba Watson on the PGA Tour money list.
More important 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 another management change. But since winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth at May, his game looks as strong as ever.
“It feels like a long time since I lost that No. 1 spot, but it feels good to be back on top,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully, I can keep it for a while.”
Garcia was a runner-up to McIlroy for the second straight time.
Marc Leishman (67) finished alone in third.
Patrick Reed, a former University High golfer, 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 made 10 birdies for a career-best 62 at Firestone.
None of that could top McIlroy, who put on another exhibition with his driver that made Firestone look like child’s play.
“It’s the foundation of my game when I drive it like that,” McIlroy said. “I have a pretty good chance to win most weeks, and I’ve shown that the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, going into Valhalla in good form and I’ll try to get three in a row.”