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McIlroy erased any remaining doubt Sunday. He quickly collected a birdie at the first hole (belatedly achieving his Saturday goal of reaching 15 under) and added another at No. 4.

“Once he started [off well], we were all playing for second,” Westwood said.

His lead ballooned to 10 strokes, then shrunk back to eight before McIlroy’s tee shot at No. 10 trickled back to within eight inches of the cup.

In a final display of dominance, McIlroy watched Yang fire his approach at No. 16 within four feet and then stuck his shot even closer to secure yet another birdie.

“It’s pretty spectacular what he’s done,” said Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, who shot 66 and tied for ninth at 4-under. “It looks like he’s playing a different course. “

Yang, the 2009 PGA champion, came within a stroke of becoming the sixth player in Open history to reach 10-under when he matched McIlroy’s birdie at No. 10. Trouble was, McIlroy passed that plateau 38 holes earlier and never paused.

Rather than wondering when McIlroy would break through and collect his first major, the question now pivots to just how many the boy wonder will eventually collect.

With a sweet swing, a well-rounded game, a record of contending at four consecutive majors and — especially — the promise of youth to his credit, McIlroy could be poised for a particularly remarkable career arc.

“The way he plays golf, it’s a different golf,” 2010 PGA champion Martin Kaymer said. “It’s close to perfect.”

This week, it effectively was.