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Monday, 20 June 2011
Rory McIlroy - 2011 US Open Champion  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy - 2011 US Open Champion (Getty Images)
A quite brilliant display from Rory McIlroy saw him capture the US Open Championship by eight shots at Congressional Country Club.

The wonderkid from Holywood in Belfast delivered the golfing equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, setting record after record as he kept the trophy not just in European, but Northern Irish hands.

More than that, he became at 22 the second youngest European Major winner of all time - and the youngest since 1872, the year Young Tom Morris captured his fourth and final Open Championship at 21.

"The whole week has been incredible - I could not have asked for any more and I am so happy to hold this trophy," he said.

"For such a small nation to win two US Opens in a row is pretty special. As Graeme (McDowell) said last year, there will be a lot of pints of Guinness going down.

"I know a few of my friends will be partying and I can't wait to get home and join them.”

Not since amateur legend Bobby Jones in 1923 has this the toughest of all four Majors been lifted by someone of such tender years - and with Padraig Harrington saying that McIlroy has the potential to challenge Jack Nicklaus's 18-Major record it ought to be noted that the Golden Bear was a few months older when his first win came.

But the most remarkable thing is that it was only in April that McIlroy saw a four stroke lead turn into a ten shot defeat with a closing round of 80 at Augusta National.

Speaking of that Masters Tournament disappointment he said: "Augusta was a valuable experience. I knew what I needed to do today to win. I learnt a few things there about myself and my game.

"I put a few different things into practice and it paid off."

This was the first Major since then and he was a class apart from the moment he started in the same way he had at The Masters Tournament with a 65.

By the time he had raised his arms in triumph to the roars of the crowd everybody present knew they had witnessed something and somebody truly special.

Among the first to join in the celebrations was his dad Gerry. On Father's Day that was only right and proper.

"Happy Father's Day - this one's for you," shouted McIlroy at the presentation ceremony. "I have to mention my Mum too - everything they have done for me I can't thank them enough."

Back at home there were the same joyous scenes that had greeted McDowell's victory 12 months ago - the first by a European in the event for 40 years.

They have all known about McIlroy's talent since he shot 61 at Portrush as a 16 year old - and many of them for long before that.

With a closing 69 for a tournament record 16 under par total of 268, these are the new US Open Championship marks he set or shared - and whether he goes on to do more than Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, who won by 15 in 2000, should not detract from this achievement:

Lowest halfway total - 131

Biggest halfway lead - 6 (with Woods)

Lowest 54-hole total - 199

Quickest to ten under - 26 holes

Quickest to 11 under - 32 holes

Quickest to 12 under - 34 holes

First to 13 under - 35 holes

First to 14 under - 50 holes

First to 15 under - 55 holes

First to 16 under - 58 holes

First to 17 under - 64 holes

Most under par 72 holes - 16 under

Lowest 72-hole total - 268 (by four)

He also became only the third player to have four rounds in the sixties at the event and while those statistics, inevitably, also said something about how soft the Washington course was all week, it was the same for everyone and only one took full advantage.

Insistent that he had his Masters Tournament heartbreak in context within a few days of it happening - he was third in Malaysia the following Sunday - a visit to earthquake-hit Haiti the week before coming to Washington added further perspective.

He still had to show, however, that regardless of his eight stroke cushion with a day to go he was capable of remaining in a league of his own.

Lee Westwood, joint third overnight, started with a birdie, but in the group behind McIlroy matched it from nine feet and an approach to four feet at the 470 yard fourth made the gap double figures.

Y E Yang got it back to eight on the two outward par fives and McIlroy had a narrow escape when his pitch to the long sixth only just made it over the water, actually bouncing off the wall of the water onto the green.

Asia's only Major winner - he overtook Woods at the 2009 US PGA Championship - then struck his tee shot to around three feet on the dangerous short tenth, but McIlroy not only got inside him, but almost holed-in-one.

Sharing it in birdie twos meant he was a step closer and McIlroy had, of course, improved five shots on what he took at Augusta National's tenth.

When Yang hit his second into water on the 11th and bogeyed victory seemed in the bag and, as if it had not been all weekend, the real battle was for second place.

And, as at The Masters Tournament, 23 year old Australian Jason Day ended up as runner-up, a bogey-free 68 seeing him finish two ahead of Westwood, Yang and Americans Robert Garrigus and Kevin Chappell.

For Westwood, who mixed three birdies with three bogeys for a 71, his wait for a first Major goes on - and he did not quite do enough either to regain the World Number One spot from Luke Donald.

McIlroy did bogey the 12th after driving into sand and, after another birdie at the long 16th, he did have his only three-putt on the 17th.

But it was all over long before then. The future of golf had arrived.

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