NORTHERN IRELAND’S Rory McIlroy announced himself as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods as golf’s main attraction by clinching his first Major title in emphatic style.
The 22-year-old turned the US Open at Congressional in Washington into a one-man show as he tamed a notoriously unforgiving course and decimated a high-class field, eventually winning by eight shots following a final round 69 to finish on 16 under.
Having led after 54 holes at the Masters in April, a catastrophic final round of 80 at Augusta cost him any chance of donning the coveted green jacket.
With an eight shot lead here, McIlroy’s margin for error was far greater than it was in Georgia, but he demonstrated admirable composure to dispel any fears he would choke again with a birdie at the first.
Another seemingly laser-guided approach to the fourth paved the way for a further birdie and he then produced a superb up and down to save par at the fifth having found the greenside bunker with a rare errant iron shot.
Luck played a part in keeping McIlroy on course to break Woods’ record for the lowest 72 hole total at a US Open of 12 under when he caught his approach to the sixth heavy and it only just made it over the lake.
The ball actually bounced off the brick wall on the water’s edge, but went forward onto the green and he two-putted for a par five.
There was nothing fortunate about the way he made birdie at the par three 10th, however, when he narrowly missed out on an ace by a matter of inches.
A bogey at the 12th did little to stem his inevitable march to glory and eclipsing Bobby Jones as the youngest winner of this event in 88 years.
Three pars in succession were followed by a birdie at the par five 16th and subsequent bogey at 17, before he rounded off what had long since turned into a lap of honour with a four at the 18th to clinch the title.
Outgoing champion Graeme McDowell, also of Northern Ireland, paid his countryman a glowing tribute when he said: “Rory’s found the state of mind to close out these tournaments and it’s unbelievably impressive.
“His attitude and the way he plays the game is an example to everyone. It’s interesting to see where he goes from here. It’s not just a monkey off his back it’s a gorilla. He could really go on to do some big things.”