Hoylake stood to acclaim McIlroy as he walked down the 18th fairway. They knew they were witnessing the latest step on Rory McIlroy's path to golfing immortality. McIlroy battled hard to win the 2014 Open Championship and in doing so joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to become only the third player in history to win three majors before the age of 25. There is no fluking an Open victory and history never comes easy. This was a hard fought competition - a triumph secured over 72 holes of concentration and stress, over four days of contrasting weather and conditions that demanded the best. A real champion has to withstand real pressure and McIlroy responded strongly when Sergio Garcia began to eat into his lead. However, McIlroy stood firm and his two-shot victory showed a strength in character and the resilience needed to be a consistent winner. Previously, the typical challenges of the links courses on which the Open championship is played have proved too much for this incredibly gifted player. Last year McIlroy missed the cut and the year before he had tied for a lowly 60th. In 2011 he was 25th and forgotten as his compatriot Darren Clarke's own Open dream came true. However, this year he conquered and when McIlroy tapped in for a 71 and a 17-under total for the tournament, he smiled and subtly punched his fist. As the crowd showed their appreciation of this masterful display, he hugged his mother and then embraced Garcia acknowledging the part he had played in this enthralling drama, finishing with a courageous 66. Rory McIlroy delivered when he was expected to and the golfing world looks on to see where goes from this win. For now, he shares a place on golf's elite podium with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.