June 20, 2011 in Sports

McIlroy wins in spectacular fashion

Jeff Shain Orlando Sentinel
 
Associated Press photo

Rory McIlroy hugs his father Gerry on the 18th green after winning the U.S. Open Championship at Congressional Country Club.
(Full-size photo)

BETHESDA, Md. – It took less than an hour for Rory McIlroy to effectively bury any demons from Augusta National.

An 8-foot birdie at Congressional Country Club’s opening hole. Three holes later, another from 3 feet away. No one would be allowed a chance to threaten.

Instead, McIlroy brought down the curtain on one of the most dominant performances in major-championship annals.

A 2-under-par 69 turned Sunday’s final round into a coronation march, smashing the U.S. Open scoring record by four strokes as the 22-year-old pro left his nearest pursuer eight shots in his wake.

“To win the U.S. Open in a bit of style is always nice,” said McIlroy, the fourth-youngest U.S. Open winner.

The young man from Holywood, Northern Ireland, finished at 16-under 268, blitzing the previous Open record of 272, set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980, and later matched by Lee Janzen (1993), Tiger Woods (2000) and Jim Furyk (2003).

McIlroy also rewrote the Open’s scoring record after two rounds (131) and again after three (199) – among 11 new standards bearing his name and another he shares. In addition, he joined Lee Trevino (1968) and Lee Janzen (1993) as the only men to break 70 in all four Open rounds.

“It’s not amazing that he’s going to win a major,” three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said as McIlroy played his final holes. “But it’s amazing how comfortably he’s lapping the field.”

Though McIlroy couldn’t approach Woods’ record winning margin of 15 shots when he scorched Pebble Beach, it goes down as No. 4 on the list. Willie Smith was 11 up on the field in 1899; James Barnes won by nine in 1921.

“Once he started, we were all playing for second,” Lee Westwood said. “It’s tough to win a major, and it’s probably even tougher to win it like that.”

McIlroy now has held at least a share of the lead in the past nine rounds at majors, including a brief spell in the final round of last year’s PGA Championship before finishing one shot out of a playoff.

“Congrats to Rory,” Woods said in a statement. “What a performance from start to finish. Enjoy the win. Well done.”

It was a vastly different final chapter than what transpired at The Masters.

McIlroy admits he played defensively at Augusta National, watching it backfire when a four-shot lead to begin the final day had dwindled to one by the turn. A triple bogey at No. 10 erased what was left, setting him down the road to a back-nine 43.

The Ulsterman put the hammer down until late at Congressional. After those early birdies sent him into the turn at 2-under, McIlroy ripped a 6-iron at the par-3 10th that nearly turned into a hole-in-one.

Coming down off a slope, McIlroy’s ball trickled toward the hole until it stopped 6 inches away. The tap-in moved him to 17 under, another Open record.

“That was the point in the round,” McIlroy said, “that I felt it was mine to lose.”

Australia’s Jason Day claimed the runner-up medal, posting a 68 to give him second place in back-to-back majors. He finished two shots ahead of a quartet at 6 under: Westwood, former PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang, and Americans Kevin Chappell and Robert Garrigus.

McIlroy became the youngest Open champion since Bobby Jones, then 21, won the first of his four titles in 1923. Only two other men have won it at a younger age – Johnny McDermott (19) at the 1911 Open and Francis Ouimet (20) two years later.

“He has probably the most talent I’ve ever seen from a golfer,” said Luke Donald, No. 1 in the world rankings. “Lovely to watch him play – such a fluid motion, and he hits it far. He’s got a great attitude on and off the golf course.”

Said Graeme McDowell, the outgoing Open champion: “Nothing this kid does ever surprises me. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen.”

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus