20 Jun 2011

Rory McIlroy is new world number four after US Open triumph

Rory McIlroy is drawing comparisons with the young Tiger Woods after overcoming his final-round demons to clinch his first major title.

Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy has climbed to number four in the world rankings after winning the US Open by an astonishing eight shots to claim his first major title.

The 22-year-old became the youngest winner of the competition since 1923, carding a two-under-par 69 in his final round at Congressional Country Club.

Top golfers lined up to pay tribute to the Holywood player, who has long been regarded as one of the most promising prospects in the game, with some comparing him to the young Tiger Woods.

On Sunday, McIlroy posted a tournament record total of 16-under 268, beating Woods’s 12-under record at the 2000 US Open, and shattered the previous aggregate low of 272 held jointly by Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Janzen and Jim Furyk.

Rory McIlroy with the US Open trophy.

McIlroy had pulled away from the field over the first three days, setting tournament lows after 36 and 54 holes.

But there were question marks over his ability to handle the pressure in the closing stages, after his form collapsed in the final round of the Augusta National in April despite a four-shot lead.

It’s great to get this first major in the bag … especially after what’s happened the last couple of months. Rory McIlroy

Fears of another capitulation were banished when McIlroy rolled in a nine-footer to birdie the opening hole and stretch his lead to nine.

After safely parring the last hole, McIlroy pumped his fist in the air in celebration before walking off the green and saying to his father Gerry: “Happy Father’s Day.”

Read more: Alex Thomson reports from Holywood Golf Club

No silver spoon for this son. No wealth and entitlement in this family, but real sacrifices down the line to make the boy's dreams come true.

And last night in the clubhouse, you couldn't get much further from the stuffy,class-conscious golf club of English folklore. Could that be why this small place with fewer people than West Yorkshire has produced two winners in two consecutive years?

So it is that, having lived here, I knew that the Belfast Telegraph would be hot on the ownership theme before the Telly even arrived this morning.

And this morning's headline is: "A champion...a great...and he's ours."

McIlroy told reporters: “I knew most of the field were going to have a hard time to catch up to the score that I was on, so I’m obviously just very happy to win the US Open. And to win it in a bit of style as well is always nice.

“It’s great to get this first major in the bag… especially after what’s happened the last couple of months.

“I felt like I got over the Masters pretty quickly. I was very honest with myself and I knew what I needed to do differently.

“To be able to finish it off the way I did… just tells me that I learned from it and I’ve moved on. Now I’ve got this, I can go ahead and concentrate on getting some more.”

Australia’s Jason Day, 23, fired a 68 to finish alone in second, two strokes better than South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun (71), Britain’s Lee Westwood (70) and Americans Kevin Chappell (66) and Robert Garrigus (70).

When Tiger was going well, that’s as good as I’ve ever seen. I think Rory is in that same boat. Steve Stricker

Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who won last year’s US Open at Pebble Beach, said: “Nothing this kid does ever surprises me. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger when he was in his real pomp, 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. Maybe Rory is it. He’s the best driver of the golf ball I’ve ever seen.”

US player Steve Stricker said: “He’s got the world in front of him. Fundamentally he’s as good as we’ve seen ever in my era, take Tiger Woods out of it.

“When Tiger was going well, that’s as good as I’ve ever seen. I think Rory is in that same boat. His swing is mechanically sound, he’s got a great short game, he putts it well and he’s long. He’s got all the tools.”