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Rory McIlroy finds redemption in record-setting U.S. Open victory

BETHESDA, Md. — Rory McIlroy buried the memory of his Masters meltdown the same way he buried the competition at the U.S. Open, with a breathtaking performance filled with the promise of more majors to come.

Four days of flawless golf at Congressional ended Sunday afternoon when McIlroy polished off a 2-under 69 to shatter U.S. Open records that simply defy logic at the major known as the toughest test in golf.

"Nice to prove some people wrong," he said after finishing at 16-under par.

The last 10 U.S. Open champions combined were 14 under.

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland walked off the 18th green and into the arms of his father, Gerry, who worked three jobs so his only son could pursue his passion. Not even he could have imagined a day like this.

"Happy Father's Day," McIlroy told him.

Dad had a Northern Ireland flag draped over his green shirt.

"Unbelievable," he said. "With what's happened over the last couple of months, and to come back and do this, it's fantastic. After the Masters, he worked so hard."

McIlroy finished at 268 to break the U.S. Open record by four shots. That record 12-under par by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach? McIlroy matched it in the second round and kept rolling.

When he arrived for his news conference, he took a picture of the silver U.S. Open trophy on the table and posted it on Twitter with two references that said it all: Winning. Bounceback.

"Going back to Augusta this year, I felt like that was a great opportunity to get my first major. It didn't quite work out," he said. "But to come back straightaway at the U.S. Open and win that is nice. You can always call yourself a major champion, and hopefully after this, I can call myself a multiple major champion."

Since the Masters began in 1934, McIlroy is the second youngest major champion next to Woods.

His freckled-face bursting with joy when he tapped in for par, McIlroy won by eight shots over Jason Day, who closed with a 68 and moved to No. 9 in the world. It was the second straight runnerup in a major for Day, only this time he didn't have a chance.

No one did this week.

McIlroy opened with a three-shot lead, stretched it to six shots after 36 holes and eight shots going into the final round. No one got any closer over the final 18 holes.

McIlroy, who goes to No. 4 in the world, now stands above everyone going into the final two majors of the year.

Just think: If he had avoided the collapse at Augusta National, he could be headed to the British Open with the first two legs of the Grand Slam.

The drama Sunday was not who would win, but by how many. There was simply no catching McIlroy, not when he was staked to an eight-shot lead while playing flawless golf, not on a soft course that allowed him to hit wedge into six greens on the front nine.

McIlroy came out firing with a wedge that settled 8 feet from the pin for an opening birdie.

Twice when he faced putts from across the green, he holed 7-footers for par. He stretched his lead to 10 shots, and when he made the turn, his tee shot on the par-3 10th rolled down the slope and stopped inches away from an ace.

He didn't make a bogey until the 12th hole, when he failed to get up-and-down from short of the green, and his only three-putt of the championship came on the 17th hole. McIlroy made worse than par on only four of 72 holes.

It was the second straight U.S. Open title for the country of Northern Ireland, and defending champion Graeme McDowell walked back across the bridge to the 18th green to embrace the new winner.

"You're a legend," McDowell told him.

U.S. Open records set by Rory McIlroy

26 Fewest holes to double digits under par

131 Low first 36 holes

-11 Most strokes under par (36 holes)

6 strokes; largest 36-hole lead*

199 Low first 54 holes

-14 Most strokes under par (54 holes)

268 Lowest 72-hole total

-16 Most strokes under par (72 holes)

* tied with Tiger Woods (2000)

Sources: NBC, Associated Press

Redemption for Rory

In April, Rory McIlroy took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters and imploded with an 80 to finish 10 strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel. Sunday at the U.S. Open, he never let the field have a chance. The final-round scorecards from McIlroy's last two majors:

Holelead123456789out101112131415161718infinish
Par4543434543644354534436
Masters4554353354377555463444380, T-15
Par4344453453634434454435
U.S Open8334345345342453444543569, Won

Rory McIlroy finds redemption in record-setting U.S. Open victory 06/19/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 19, 2011 11:08pm]
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