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.
Boy Wonder again made it look easy.
Sergio Garcia had a three-shot lead going into the final round at Firestone. But 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, then 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 victories in 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 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 vital was the 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.
“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.
Garcia had the daunting task of making up a seven-shot deficit at the British Open, and he put up a fight until finishing two shots behind at Hoylake. This time he had a three-shot lead, but it didn’t go better.
Garcia missed a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 second hole. His lead down to one, Garcia pulled his tee shot into the gallery on the third hole, striking a woman and knocking the diamond out of her ring. The diamond was found, about the lone bright spot in his day. Garcia made bogey, and McIlroy rolled in another birdie to take the lead.
They were tied at the turn when Garcia made a 15-foot putt for his only birdie of the day, and McIlroy missed from 6 feet. But two holes later, with both players 8 feet away for birdie, McIlroy made and Garcia missed, and the Spaniard never caught up.