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Archive for Monday, June 20, 2011

Rory McIlroy wins 2011 U.S. Open

June 20, 2011

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— It took less than an hour for Rory McIlroy to effectively bury any demons from Augusta National.

An 8-foot birdie at Congressional Country Club’s opening hole. Three holes later, another from 3 feet away. No one would be allowed a chance to threaten.

Instead, McIlroy brought down the curtain on one of the most dominant performances in major-championship annals.

A 2-under-par 69 turned Sunday’s final round into a coronation march, smashing the U.S. Open scoring record by four strokes as the 22-year-old pro left his nearest pursuer eight shots in his wake.

“To win the U.S. Open in a bit of style is always nice,” said McIlroy, the fourth-youngest U.S. Open winner.

The Northern Ireland native finished at 16-under 268, blitzing the previous Open record of 272, set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980, and later matched by Lee Janzen (1993), Tiger Woods (2000) and Jim Furyk (2003). McIlroy also rewrote the Open’s scoring record after two rounds (131) and again after three (199).

In addition, he joined Lee Trevino (1968) and Lee Janzen (1993) as the only men to break 70 in all four Open rounds.

“It’s amazing how comfortably he’s lapping the field,” three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said.

Though McIlroy couldn’t approach Woods’ record winning margin of 15 shots when he scorched Pebble Beach, it goes down as No. 4 on the list. Willie Smith was 11 up on the field in 1899; James Barnes won by nine in 1921.

“Once he started, we were all playing for second,” Lee Westwood said. “It’s tough to win a major, and it’s probably even tougher to win it like that.”

McIlroy now has held at least a share of the lead in the past nine rounds at majors, including a brief spell in the final round of last year’s PGA Championship before finishing one shot out of a playoff.

“Congrats to Rory,” Woods said in a statement. “What a performance from start to finish. Enjoy the win. Well done.”

It was a vastly different final chapter than what transpired at The Masters.

McIlroy admits he played defensively at Augusta National, watching it backfire when a four-shot lead to begin the final day had dwindled to one by the turn. The Ulsterman put the hammer down until late at Congressional. After those early birdies sent him into the turn at 2 under, McIlroy ripped a 6-iron at the par-3 10th that nearly turned into a hole-in-one.

Coming down off a slope, McIlroy’s ball trickled toward the hole until it stopped 6 inches away. The tap-in moved him to 17 under, another Open record.

“That was the point in the round,” McIlroy said, “that I felt it was mine to lose.”

Australia’s Jason Day claimed the runner-up medal, posting a 68 to give him second place in back-to-back majors. He finished two shots ahead of a quartet at 6 under.

McIlroy became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones, then 21, won the first of his four titles in 1923.

Only two other men have won it at a younger age — Johnny McDermott (19) at the 1911 Open and Francis Ouimet (20) two years later.

“He has probably the most talent I’ve ever seen from a golfer,” said Luke Donald, No. 1 in the world rankings. “Lovely to watch him play — such a fluid motion, and he hits it far. He’s got a great attitude on and off the golf course.”

Said Graeme McDowell, the outgoing Open champion: “Nothing this kid does ever surprises me. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen.”

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