AKRON, Ohio — Rory McIlroy came from three shots behind Sergio Garcia at the start and won his first World Golf Championship on Sunday, taking the title in the $9 million Bridgestone Invitational by two shots over Garcia.
McIlroy, who captured his third major at the British Open two weeks ago, birdied the first three holes at Firestone Country Club to grab the lead as Garcia bogeyed No. 3.
“What I’m really proud of is following up the Open with a performance like this,” McIlroy told CBS. “It’s great to come to one of my favorite tournaments and perform like this.”
The Northern Ireland-born McIlroy virtually won the tournament on the front nine, with birdies on four of the first five holes, against one bogey at No. 8. He needed only one birdie the rest of the way, at No. 11, to hold off Garcia.
McIlroy also birdied the final two holes of the third round after a rain delay Saturday to gain ground on Garcia.
“That was a really important stretch of the golf tournament,’ McIlroy said. “The final two coming in 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. Sergio had some putts to get close to me. I had a couple tree limbs that went my way.”
McIlroy needed only one birdie on the back, at No. 11, to hold off Garcia.
McIlroy shot a 4-under 66, Garcia a 1-over 71.
McIlroy, 25, also reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with the victory as last week’s leader, Adam Scott, finished tied for eighth. Scott needed a top-five finish to remain on top.
It marks the fifth time McIlroy has been ranked No. 1, which he last held in mid-March 2013. He was in and out of the spot in 2012.
Garcia is now 3-for-12 when holding the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.
Garcia and McIlroy have dueled in the final round of their last two tournaments, also vying at the British Open, where Garcia tied for second with Rickie Fowler. Next week is the final major of the year, the PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner at Firestone, withdrew with back spasms after teeing off at No. 9.