Rory in excelsis

Rory McIlroy probably won the US Open on the 10th hole of the final round of the Masters last April.

His dominating eight-stroke victory at 16-under-par, filled with so many records it’s difficult to list them all, had its genesis in his meltdown at Augusta National, where he was five shots worse than he was on the 10th at Congressional Golf Club.

He hit a six-iron in to the par-three 10th at Congressional, and he nearly holed it. The two-inch tap-in for two was in stark contrast to his house-hunting seven at Augusta, which brought him back into the clutches of Charl Schwartzel.

“I was very honest with myself and I knew what I needed to do differently after the Masters,” he said. “And that was the thing. I had a clear picture in my mind of what I needed to do and where my focus needed to be when I got myself in that position again. And luckily enough for me, I was able to get in that position.”

This time, there was no catching him. “I knew when it hit the top of the slope that it was going to come down pretty close to the hole. I never really thought about it going in,” he said.

“I thought that was probably the biggest point in the round because YE Yang had just stuck it in there close. So to follow that shot up with mine was pretty cool. To get the ovation coming on to the green, it was nice. And I was very happy to play the 10th and the 11th hole at one-under par today, because they were two holes that you had the possibility of making a big number on. And to play those at 1-under par was big for me.

“After I got past the 11th, I sort of knew I would have had to have done something really, really stupid to not win.”

He didn’t as he signalled the certainty now that there is a new era in golf: Louis Oosthuizen is the oldest holder of a major title right now, with his Open Championship victory coming when he was 18. Schwartzel was 26 when he won the Masters, and Martin Kaymer 25 when he won the PGA Championship.

And the runner-up at Congressional behind the 22-year-old McIlroy was 23-year-old Jason Day.

“If you had asked me when I turned pro when I was 18, do you think you’d win a major by the time you’re 22, I would have said no,” said McIlroy.

“I would have liked to have been an established player on the European Tour, maybe a couple of wins. But to contend in the majors how I have so early, I don’t really know what I can put it down to, if it’s just hard work and practice or if I feel like I just have a little bit more focus or intensity for major weeks, I’m not too sure. I’m surprised that I’ve done it so early. But it’s great. It’s a great thing for me. I can always call myself a major champion now and I can go ahead and focus on, as I said, trying to get some more.”

The other young guns, including Schwartzel and Oosthuizen, are going to be doing the same, too.

Schwartzel came storming home with the best round of the final day, his five-under-par 66 lifting him into a share of ninth.

He shared that spot with Oosthuizen who himself carded a four-under-par 67. Yes, they were 12 shots off the lead, but just about everybody felt before the US Open started that level-par could win it!

Behind them, Retief Goosen came to light with a three-under-par 68 – his best round of the week – to finish in a share of 23rd, while Rory Sabbatini finished tied for 30th after his closing 71.

Qualifier Christo Greyling was the last of the South Africans to finish in the money with a share of 68th.

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