AKRON, Ohio — In his first start since a wire-to-wire win at the British Open, Rory McIlroy wiped out a three-shot deficit in only three holes and shot 4-under 66 to win the Bridgestone Invitational and return to No. 1 in the world Sunday.
And like at Royal Liverpool two weeks ago, he made it look easy.
Sergio Garcia had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the World Golf Championship event at Firestone. McIlroy started with three birdies and had the lead when he stood on the fourth tee. He took the lead for good with an 8-foot birdie putt at No. 11 and finished at 15-under 265, two ahead of Garcia.
"What I'm really proud of is following up the Open with a performance like this," McIlroy said. "It's great to come to one of my favorite tournaments and perform like this."
The second-place finish was enough for Garcia (71) to move from fifth to third in the world. Adam Scott, who finished tied for eighth, fell a spot to second.
McIlroy became the 13th player with a major and WGC title and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win them in consecutive starts. More important was the world ranking.
He lost the No. 1 position in March 2013, when his game was in a downward spiral as he adjusted to new equipment and another management change. But since winning the BMW PGA Championship in 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," said McIlroy, who also was in and out of the top spot in 2012. "Hopefully, I can keep it for a while."
McIlroy credited his driving for the good round.
"It's the foundation of my game when I drive it like that," McIlroy said. "I have a pretty good chance to win most weeks, and I've shown that the last couple of weeks."
Garcia missed a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 No. 2 with a putt that never looked as if it was going in. He then pulled his tee shot at No. 3 into the gallery. The ball struck a woman on the hand, knocking the diamond out of her ring. The diamond was found — about the lone bright spot of Garcia's day. Garcia made bogey, and McIlroy rolled in another birdie putt to take the lead.
They were tied at the turn after 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 about 8 feet away for birdie, McIlroy made and Garcia missed. The Spaniard never caught up.
"Everybody saw it," Garcia said. "(McIlroy) played very, very well. He drove the ball miles and very, very straight for the most part. He gave himself a lot of birdie looks."
Champions: Kenny Perry scrambled to birdie No. 18 and win the 3M Championship by one in Blaine, Minn. The third-round leader closed with a 7-under 65 to finish at 23-under 193 for his second win of the year and seventh overall on the tour. Bernhard Langer (63), the Senior British Open winner last week by a tour-record 13 shots, overcame a four-shot deficit on the back nine and was tied with Perry going to the par-5 18th. But his second shot landed in the tall grass, and he two-putted for par. After a par at No. 17, Perry hit his second shot at No. 18 into the grandstand behind the green. After a drop, he pitched to about 15 feet and made the putt.
PGA: Geoff Ogilvy earned five points with an eagle on the par-5 13th on his way to winning the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev. The third-round leader added birdies at Nos. 14 and 18 to finish with 14 points for the day and 49 overall, five more than Justin Hicks in the modified Stableford scoring system.