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Monday, 20 June 2011
Rory McIlroy marches up the first fairway  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy marches up the first fairway (Getty Images)

Fourteen years after Tiger Woods won his first Major with a record score at The Masters, Rory McIlroy has done the same at the US Open.

And even if the margin was not quite as great - eight shots as opposed to 12 - the statement was just as loud.

There is a new kid on the block and, as Ernie Els was predicting only last Tuesday, he is capable of re-writing history.

But what made the 22 year old's runaway victory at Congressional last night all the more remarkable were two things above all else - he is the second successive Northern Irish winner and he suffered that golfing nightmare at Augusta in April.

"It will probably take a little bit of time to sink in," said McIlroy after a closing 69 had taken him to an incredible 16 under par and had made him the youngest European Major Champion since 1872 and fifth successive European Tour Major winner.

"Just to sit here, knowing that I've just won that trophy and followed in the footsteps of one of my best friends Graeme McDowell last year at Pebble, it's a great feeling.

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

"To get my first Major Championship out of the way quite early on in my career, especially after what's happened the last couple of months, feels great.

"Now I'm just looking forward to putting myself in the picture for hopefully many more."

There seems little doubt about that the way he demolished the world's best - minus the injured Woods - and became only the third player to win the title with four rounds in the 60s.

Whereas Woods broke the Masters record by only one McIlroy lowered the US Open mark by four - and this after only two previous professional victories and in the very next major after a closing 80 when four clear.

"Augusta I felt was a great opportunity to get my first Major and it obviously didn't quite work out. To come back straightaway is nice," added McIlroy.

"I can always call myself a Major Champion now - and hopefully in the not-so-distant future I'll be able to call myself a multiple Major Champion."

Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 Majors is now starting to look a tough ask for Woods after he has been stuck on 14 for three years, certainly believes in the young Ulsterman.

Reminded that McIlroy is a few months younger than he was at the 1962 US Open - his first major - the Golden Bear said: "He's ahead - and his score is way ahead of my pace.

"I think this kid's going to have a great career - I don't think there's any question about it.

"He's humble when he needs to be humble and confident when he needs to be confident. I like his moxie - he's cocksure and I like that. You've got to have that.

"He obviously had a couple if disappointments at The Masters and last year's Open (McIlroy started 63-80 at St Andrews), but I didn't think that was going to happen again and it hasn't."

The youngest winner of the title since amateur legend Bobby Jones in 1923 was not going to go wild last night because he was up early for a company day at Cape Cod near Boston.

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

That will be tomorrow, but he did add: "I definitely want to drink something out of that thing (the trophy) before the end of the night.

"You lose a lot more in golf than you win, so when you do win you have to enjoy it."

As McDowell did last year, McIlroy will first of all celebrate and then adjust to his new life before the next major - The Open on July 14-17.

He has a lot to reflect on - nobody before had got to 13 under in the championship let alone the 17 under par he reached before he had his only three-putt of the week on the penultimate green.

Three ahead after an opening 65, a record-equalling (with Woods) six clear at halfway and eight in front with a round to go, he birdied the first and fourth to make his lead double figures.

It was back to eight by the turn and looked as if it might be seven when Korean playing partner YE Yang hit his tee shot to three feet on the dangerous short 10th.

McIlroy, though, almost holed-in-one and the tap-in two - five strokes fewer than he took on Augusta's 10th - was the crucial blow that effectively ended the hopes of those chasing him.

Australian Jason Day came through to be runner-up for the second major running, with Yang bogeying the last to slip back into a tie for third with England's Lee Westwood and leading home players Robert Garrigus and Kevin Chappell.

That makes it an unprecedented five majors in a row that no American has won, but the fans cheered McIlroy as if he was one of their own.

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