Open: Jordan Spieth battles to glory as Rory McIlroy's pain continues
American Jordan Spieth turned a potential major meltdown into one of the most extraordinary victories in Open Championship history at Royal Birkdale.
2014 winner Rory McIlroy (28) could only look on and lament his own missed opportunity as his younger rival saw a three shot overnight advantage over Matt Kucher wiped out in the space of 48 minutes. That evoked memories of his dramatic collapse in the 2016 Masters when, as defending champion, Spieth squandered a five-shot lead with just nine holes to play.
This time World No3 Spieth (23) held his nerve and par at the last completed a remarkable closing 69 - three shots ahead of the unfortunate Kuchar, who also shot 69 after a bogey on the last.
The victory means Spieth joins Jack Nicklaus in becoming one of just two players to win three majors before the age of 24 and he can surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest winner of a career grand slam by claiming next month's US PGA at Quail Hollow.
In sharp contrast, World No4 McIlroy reflected on what might have been after falling short in his latest Open challenge. The 2014 champion battled back from the loss of five shots over the opening six holes of his first round to finish on five under par in joint fourth with a closing 67.
McIlroy won the last of his four majors at the US PGA Championship almost three years ago and admitted it feels 'too long'.
He added: "You look at Jack Nicklaus, he went through a stretch where he didn't win a major in three years. I'm not comparing myself to Jack but it's hard to win them, very hard. It's the reason why in this generation, excluding Tiger, no one's got above five.
"I feel like three years has been too long but at the same time I'm not going to rush it, I'm not going to stay impatient after a step in the right direction."