Rory McIlroy finishes a historic tournament -16 to win his 1st U.S. Open
As reported by: BILL PENNINGTON
BETHESDA, Md. — During the first three days of the 111th United States Open, Rory McIlroy moved through the cheering galleries with a boyish smile and the occasional laugh, a young man playing near-flawless golf and enjoying the walk on the lush grounds of Congressional Country Club.
On Sunday, however, the 22-year-old McIlroy made his way to the first tee with a newly honed stoicism. The crowd was already in a party mood, anticipating history. McIlroy played it cool.
He knew a thing or two about golf history, especially recent results in major championships, and on Sunday, he used that knowledge to fashion a killer’s instinct that rewrote the narrative of championship golf.
Foremost in his mind was his embarrassing stumble as the final-round leader at the Masters in April, a collapse he later blamed on being tentative. This time, he promised a no-lead-is-big-enough approach.
So McIlroy overwhelmed twisting fairways with the most aggressive line of attack off the tee, fired at pins with his trusty wedge and sent putts charging at the hole with the confidence of a golfer who had one three-putt in the entire tournament.
When he reached the final hole, where he had a par, his four-day totals of 268 and 16 under par — both records — not only made him the winner of the United States Open by eight strokes, it made him do something he had mostly suppressed all day — he turned to the grandstand, pumped a fist and smiled.
His victory summoned a host of historical reference points. McIlroy is the youngest champion in the event since Bobby Jones in 1923. He is younger than Jack Nicklaus was when Nicklaus won the first of his record 18 major titles and he is just 10 months older than Tiger Woods was when Woods won his first major in 1997.
In total, McIlroy set multiple United States Open records, including lowest score for a 36-hole and 54-hole leader. It took him only 26 holes to reach double digits under par, the earliest ever. He hit 62 of 72 greens in regulation, which was the best percentage (86) since the tournament began keeping that statistic. It was only the seventh time the winner was atop the leader board at the end of every round.
There were also successes that will be less noticed by record keepers but not soon forgotten by those who watched the event. He made eagle from the fairway, savaged the second-longest golf course in United States Open history with booming drives that could have run longer if the fairways had not been soaked with persistent rain, and took advantage of softened greens with menacingly accurate iron play. In 72 holes, he had three bogeys and one double bogey.
“Over all, the week has been incredible,” McIlroy said, adding that he knew he was chasing history and Woods’s 11-year-old aggregate record score of 12 under. “I knew how good Tiger was in 2000 and I was trying to go out there and emulate him in some way. Right now, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
In the end, it was a victory won in McIlroy’s reaction to disappointment. It was a lesson in how achievement often begins with the acceptance of past mistakes and the realization that hardship can be sculptured into triumph.
It was also a victory for those who believe in karma. McIlroy’s gracious and mature response to failure at the Masters earned him new fans, something evident as he walked his rounds at Congressional. Based on the surge of fans seeking autographs or just trying to be near him, he was easily the most popular golfer in the field. Now he is poised to make good on expectations that he could be golf’s next superstar, taking up a spot vacated by the faltering Woods.
McIlroy is the second consecutive United States Open champion from Northern Ireland, following Graeme McDowell. He is also the fifth straight winner of a major championship from outside the United States, a stretch that started after Phil Mickelson’s victory at the 2010 Masters. Golfers in their 20s have also now won four successive majors, and McIlroy is the 11th player to win the last 11 major titles.
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