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McIlroy takes British Open for third career major

HOYLAKE England - Rory McIlroy suffered several anxious moments but kept the jitters in check to rubber-stamp his status as the newest golfing great by landing the first British Open title of his career on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Northern Irishman watched Sergio Garcia (66) cut his overnight lead from six strokes to two before repelling the last-round charge by his European Ryder Cup team mate to land his third major in a tantalizing finish.

McIlroy returned a closing 71 for a 17-under total of 271 to become the third youngest player in history to capture three of the four majors, following Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24).

"It wasn't easy today and I just needed to stay focused, in the present and keep my concentration," he told the BBC after picking up a first prize of 975,000 pounds ($1.67 million).

"The lead never got less than two shots so I always thought I had a little bit of a cushion. To be three legs towards the grand slam is a pretty good achievement and it feels incredible."

Garcia, still striving to shed the unwanted tag of being one of the best players never to win one of the 'Big Four' prizes, pushed the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 U.S. PGA champion all the way before settling for a share of second place.