Monday, 20 June 2011
Fans cheer as Rory McIlroy wins the US Open  (Getty Images)
Fans cheer as Rory McIlroy wins the US Open (Getty Images)

As a beaming Rory McIlroy battled his way through the crowds at Congressional Country Club proudly clutching the US Open trophy, it was apparent that a new phenomenon was sweeping across America.

While McIlroy’ God-given talent has been widely recognised in Europe for some time now due to his exploits on The European Tour, Rorymania has now officially crossed the Atlantic, with crowds packing the galleries all desperate for a glimpse of  the game’s  new superstar.

Last year’s incredible final round 62 to win Quail Hollow on the US PGA Tour was a statement of intent by McIlroy, a performance that first catapulted the Northern Irishman into the American consciousness.

But if Quail Hollow was McIlroy’s parallel to The Beatles stepping out on the Ed Sullivan show, the US Open was his equivalent of Shea Stadium. Should the 22 year old go on to fulfil the lofty predictions currently being mapped out for his career, the performance will undoubtedly go down in McIlroy Mythology as his crowning glory. 

Not since Barack Obama was inaugurated has Washington taken one man to its heart so completely, such was the love affair with McIlroy at Congressional.   

Never before had a player reached 13 under par in the US Open, which McIlroy achieved during the third round.  That he finished an incredible 16 under par – the lowest total in the 111 year history of the US Open – and broke a host of other records was almost inconceivable.

Having been talked about as Tiger Woods natural successor for several years now, this was McIlroy confirming himself as the new fans’ favourite in the most stylish manner possible. The ‘Rory Era’ seemingly has begun as McIlroy became the fifth consecutive European Tour Major Champion. The Famous Four just became the Famous Five.

Steve DiMeglio, Golf Reporter for USA Today, gave an insight into the impact McIlroy’s performance has had in the United States.

“On Saturday it was the first time on any golf course I’ve ever heard chants of ‘Let’s Go Rory’, for any player,” said DiMeglio. “Those are football chants.

“Rory’s star exploded this week but his star started rising at Quail Hollow. Those were some of the loudest roars I’ve ever heard. What Rory has is youth and youth always plays great in the United States.

“Nobody else looks like Rory. He’s got a different look, he’s got a natural charisma that’s going to play well in the States. He went three, three, three, three at Quail Hollow and hit shots that blew people away.

“He’s a different sort of Tiger. If he can sustain that, I don’t know. Tiger made playing golf cool, Rory will keep it cool. Fans in the United States will swarm to him.

“They see here’s the guy that could, could, replace Tiger Woods. The star power of Tiger Woods was that he did things nobody else did. Well, nobody else is shooting 16 under par in the US Open. So Rory has done something no one else has done.

“He has a picture perfect swing. And he just gets IT. He signs autographs, he talks to fans and jokes around. He smiles on the golf course an awful lot. I think he’s going to be huge here.

“People are seeing something they’ve not seen in a long time and the last time they saw this was Tiger.”

Bob Harig, columnist and broadcaster for American network ESPN, is always convinced that McIlroy’s star will burn brightly for a long time to come.

“I think he is more popular than any international player,” said Harig. “He’s got that charisma. People like his flare. He is very popular over here.

“Golf needs a frontrunner. Golf likes a player that wins a lot and you get captivated by whether he can keep doing it. Rory signs a lot of autographs, he makes eye contact, he waves and he is good to the kids. He’s very mature for someone his age and he is grasping fame and success very well. He’s handled it beautifully.”

McIlroy’s victory was covered across America.

"Authenticity speaks for itself or not at all. Rory McIlroy seems to have it, both in his golf swing and in his face," said the Washington Post.

"From his understated gestures to his cocky-modest smile, from his twirl of the club as a perfect shot hangs in mid-flight to the image Sunday evening of his huge hug with his father beside the 18th green at Congressional Country Club, he makes us think, 'There's the real thing'."

The New York Times, meanwhile, praised his "killer instinct" for the way in which he ruthlessly closed out his victory.

It read: "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."

In a similar vein The Los Angeles Times said: "It took less than an hour for Rory McIlroy to effectively bury any demons from Augusta National.

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

USA Today took a different slant on McIlroy's success, which moved him up to fourth in the World Rankings, recounting a meeting he had with manager Chubby Chandler in the wake of his Masters meltdown.

"Ten days after his distressing meltdown in the final round of this year's Masters, Rory McIlroy met with his agent, Chubby Chandler, in Belfast to talk all things golf.

"Shortly into the conversation, Chandler knew his young client wasn't suffering from any psychological toll owing to his epic setback in the Masters, where he imploded with a final-round 80 that erased a four-shot, 54-hole lead and left McIlroy doubled over in despair.

"He looked at me and said, 'Honestly, I don't know what all the fuss is about, Chub, because at the end of the day, it's just a golf tournament and I'm 21'," Chandler says. "He lost the green jacket but he didn't lose perspective. He just didn't understand all the fuss afterward."

"The fresh-faced youngster with unruly curly hair now might have a hard time comprehending a different sort of ruckus following his four-day destruction of Congressional Country Club in the U.S. Open on Sunday.

"Already a popular lad the world over, McIlroy's star exploded 10 miles north of the nation's capital in the 111th edition of the U.S. Open. Fitting right in with the White House, Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, McIlroy became an iconic symbol of power on the grounds of the golf club named in honor of the U.S. Congress."

Even the Wall Street Journal took some time out from the world of finances to pay tribute to McIlroy's achievement.

"Young Rory McIlroy Leaves His Augusta Collapse Behind and Cruises to a Record Win at the U.S. Open", read its headline, describing his victory as "a Beautiful Blowout, Not a Poetic Payback".

Of course it is not just in America where McIlroy’s exploits have made the headlines over the past week. Back in his home in Northern Ireland, McIlroy’s US Open campaign captured the imagination of the public, both golfing and non-golfing, and gave the country a hero who is likely to be around for the foreseeable future.

Stephen Watson, of BBC Northern Ireland, believes McIlroy’s remarkable achievement is a massive boost for golf in his homeland, following on from Graeme McDowell’s own victory 12 months ago.

“Holywood Golf Club has gone absolutely bonkers,” he said. “The place was absolutely rammed on Sunday night. Everyone is supporting Rory McIlroy. People who aren’t even interested in golf.

“People out in Belfast on Saturday night who normally watch football don’t go out to bars to watch golf but they were this weekend. That is the incredible thing. Rory is so popular with everyone, grannies, kids, mums and dads. They were all rooting for him.

“Especially after what Graeme McDowell did last year, it is an amazing story. To wait 40 years for a European to win the US Open and then to have two in a row, both from Northern Ireland, is unbelievable. Everyone thought Rory would win a Major before Graeme but in many ways what Graeme did last year actually gave Rory a bit more incentive.

“To have two Major winners in two years from a small place like Northern Ireland with a population of 1.6million people is incredible.”

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