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.
He finished at 16 under.
The past 10 U.S. Open champions combined were 14 under.
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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 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. I really can’t put it into words. And on Father’s Day, it’s fantastic. You couldn’t beat it.”
It was the second straight U.S. Open title for the tiny 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.
Not many would dispute that now, not after a week like this.
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 right on rolling.
“I couldn’t ask for much more, and I’m just so happy to be holding this trophy,” McIlroy said. “I know how good Tiger was in 2000 to win by 15 in Pebble. I was trying to go out there and emulate him in some way. I played great for four days, and I couldn’t be happier.”
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 runner-up in a major for Day.
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.
Tributes poured in throughout the steamy afternoon outside the nation’s capital — first from the players he beat, then from Jack Nicklaus and ultimately from Woods.
“What a performance from start to finish,” Woods said in a statement. “Enjoy the win. Well done.”
McIlroy, who goes to No. 4 in the world, now stands above everyone going into the final two majors of the year.
Among the records he set in a U.S. Open unlike any other:
The 72-hole record at 268.
The 54-hole record at 199.
The 36-hole record at 131.
Most under par at any point at 17 under.
Quickest to reach double digits under par — 26 holes when he got to 10 under in the second round.
McIlroy also tied Woods’ record for a six-shot lead at the halfway point, and he joined Lee Janzen in 1993 and Lee Trevino in 1968 as the only players to post all four rounds in the 60s.
“I think he’s still growing, and it’s just scary to think about it,” said Y.E. Yang, who played in the final group the past two days.Amid the celebration of McIlroy came growing concern about the state of American golf. For the first time since 1934, Americans have gone five majors without winning. They were on the verge of being shut out of the top three for the fourth time in the past five majors until Yang made bogey on the last hole for a 71.
That put the South Korean into a tie for third with PGA Tour rookie Kevin Chappell (66), Robert Garrigus (70) and Lee Westwood (70).