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Rory, Rory, Rory!
The above title might signify the sing-song composition of the loud choreographed cheers emanating from the huge throngs at Congressional Country Club for Rory McIlroy's romp in the 111th U.S. Open. But it also represents the singularly resounding fashion in which the 22-year-old Northern Irishman won the first major title of what could be the dawning of an incredible career.
McIlroy, who closed with a 2-under 69 to finish with a 16-under total of 268 - eight shots better than runner-up Jason Day of Australia, set or tied 12 U.S. Open records.
Among the more salient marks established by McIlroy - the sixth wire-to-wire winner in Open history - include posting the lowest-ever 36- and 54-hole scores, and his 72-hole score was the lowest ever by four shots.
McIlroy was simply superb throughout, shooting 65, 66, 68 and 69 to become only the third player ever to post all four rounds in the 60s. His only three-putt of the entire championship came on the 71st hole after he hit his approach on the par-4 17th onto the left side of the green. Facing a long putt that had to negotiate a hillcrest and then drop steeply down to the cup, his first attempt didn't quite make the edge and halted. His par try just skirted the hole, but McIlroy made the come-backer for only his third bogey of the championship.
Besides those few blips and a double-bogey on Congressional's brutal 18th hole in the second round, he logged an amazing 19 birdies and an eagle 2 on the par-4 eighth hole in the second round that served as a harbinger of things to come. The rest was history.
McIlroy admitted later he was aware that he was entering rarified air. "I know how good Tiger was in 2000 at Pebble," he said in a greenside interview in reference to Tiger Woods's nonpareil 15-shot Open victory. "I played great for four days and couldn't be happier."
He showed that emotion when he made - for him anyway - a routine par on the 72nd hole. After driving into the left-hand rough, he put his approach in front of the green and putted from the fringe for an easy tap-in. After the ball disappeared, he gave caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald, also a Northern Irishman, a big hug and saluted the roaring crowd as he walked across the bridge toward the scoring tent.
Waiting in the wings was his dad, Gerry, who he also hugged and told, "Happy Father's Day, Dad." And then he encountered last year's Open champion, Graeme McDowell, and gave yet another fellow Ulsterman a stout embrace.
When asked about his performance at the trophy presentation, the young McIlroy elicited laughter from the gallery and gathered USGA officials as he remarked: "I could have holed a couple more putts." He then added, "Overall, the whole week was incredible."
He also referenced the remarkable fact that he was the second straight Northern Irishman to bring home a U.S. Open title. "For such a small nation to win two U.S. Opens in a row is pretty special. There'll be quite a few pints of Guinness going around."
He was thankful that his father was in attendance. "It means the world for him to be here. I also have to mention my Mum, who's watching back home."
Of course, many pundits - despite McIlroy's eight-stroke lead entering Sunday- were still wary of proclaiming him the Open champion before all 72 holes were completed. That was due to McIlroy's final-round collapse in the 2011 Masters, where he enjoyed a four-stroke edge after 54 holes but closed with an 8-over 80 to fall into a tie for 15th, 10 strokes back of champion Charl Schwartzel.
But that monkey is clearly off his back. "Augusta (National) was a very valuable experience for me," he said during the trophy presentation. "I know what I needed to do today. I put a few things into practice and it paid off."
After he completed his final round, Schwartzel recognized McIlroy's candor following the Masters' debacle. "The way he reacted, the way he handled it afterwards, it looked like it was going to be around the corner," the South African said.
"He put it behind him very quickly. I think (the media) sort of took it a bit further and tried to see why, and he just said, well, it happened, and he sort of got on with it a lot quicker, which for him was very good, and the results are showing."
McIlroy's victory in the U.S. Open makes it four majors in a row won by players in their 20s; the others are Louis Oosthuizen in last year's British Open at St. Andrews, German Martin Kaymer in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and Schwartzel in the Masters.
McIlroy was certainly pleased to be the newest member of that youth movement. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I'm just so happy to be holding this trophy."
For 23-year-old Day, it's his second runner-up finish in the first two majors of 2011. The young Aussie had three birdies and the rest pars for a 68. Unlike the Masters, where he was tied with countryman Adam Scott, he was alone in second in the U.S. Open at 8-under 276. That score would have won all but two Open titles in previous years.
Tied for third at 6-under 278 were two Americans, Robert Garrigus (70) and Kevin Chappell, who matched the low round on Sunday, a 5-under 66, Lee Westwood (70), and McIlroy's partner in the final group, South Korean Y.E. Yang (71). Ending up in solo seventh at 279 was Spain's Sergio Garcia, who closed with a 67.
McDowell spoke for many when he said of McIlroy, "Nothing this kid does ever surprises me. He's the best player I've ever seen. I didn't have a chance to play with Tiger when he was in his real pump, and this guy is the best I've ever seen, simple as that. He's great for golf. He's a breath of fresh air for the game and perhaps we're ready for golf's next superstar and maybe Rory is it."
Based on McIlroy's demolition of Congressional and the myriad all-time records he set in this year's U.S. Open, McDowell may be right.
News & Notes
• Patrick Cantlay took low-amateur honors. The sophomore-to-be at UCLA, who came into the Open as the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world and has promised to remain in school regardless of his finish this week, posted a 1-over 72 for an even-par 284. The 19-year-old ended up tied for 21st.
Cantlay knew what his performance signifies. "It means so much because there's so much history. Obviously it's my first U.S. Open, so it means a lot to me that I was able to compete well in my first one. You know, it's just exciting and it makes me feel good. It hasn't really digested yet, but it feels great."
• Other players - past and present - sent kudos McIlroy's way:
Said three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland: "I think Rory has set himself apart now in potential. Other guys have been in contention and failed to win majors. Rory has been lapping the field. So it is important for him to get a major, get across the line. When he wins, it will make it easier going forward, yes."
All-time major winner (with 18), Jack Nicklaus, who had lunch with McIlroy shortly after the youngster's Masters' meltdown, said in a telephone interview with NBC during the final round: "I think he's going to have a great career and be great for the game. He's a nice kid. He's humble when he needs to be humble and he's confident when he needs to be confident. He wants to learn and he wants to get better. That's everything you need."
"Heck of a performance," Woods said in a statement read by NBC's Dan Hicks. "Looks pretty comfortable that Rory will raise the U.S. Open trophy. Congrats and well done. Enjoy it. This was an impressive performance."