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In 2011, 22-year-old Rory McIlroy shot an 80 in the final round of The Masters, coughing up a four-stroke lead on the final day.

That could have been a career-defining moment had he never won a major; instead, it's a footnote.

Two months after that Masters loss, McIlroy won the U.S. Open by eight strokes. He won the 2012 PGA Championship in a runaway, and on Sunday, he won the British Open.

Here's a list of current PGA Tour golfers who have won at least three majors (keep in mind that Jack Nicklaus has the most ever, with 18):

  • Tiger Woods - 14
  • Phil Mickelson - 5
  • Ernie Els - 5
  • Rory McIlroy - 3
  • Vijay Singh - 3
  • Padrig Harrington - 3

McIlroy also joins a group of 39 golfers in history to win at least three majors since 1900. That's pretty rare company in 114 years of golf.

Winning on tour now is harder than it's ever been, which makes McIlroy's accomplishment in Liverpool Sunday that much more impressive. He's making history during an era of great parity.

Here's a list of the current golfers who have won at least 20 PGA Tour events (Sam Snead tops the all-time list with 82):

  1. Tiger Woods - 79
  2. Phil Mickelson - 42
  3. Vijay Singh - 34
  4. Davis Love III - 20

Both Love and Singh are over 50 now and getting close to the end of their careers.

And this is important: While only four current players have at least 20 wins, 37 golfers have done it all time. Guys now just aren't winning as much, and that's because the competition is so much better than it used to be.

And that's what makes McIlroy so special. At 25, he is the third-youngest player to ever win three legs of the career grand slam only Nicklaus and Tiger did it faster.

The British Open was McIlroy's seventh career win; only eight other golfers have won that many before turning 26.

And he's doing when the PGA Tour is as competitive as it's ever been.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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