Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

US Open: Rory McIlroy is America’s most wanted

Holywood has been celebrating Rory McIlroy's US Open win
Holywood has been celebrating Rory McIlroy's US Open win
Rory's Uncle Colm Mcllroy and Stephen Crooks, Head Professional at Holywood Gold Club, pictured with members.
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and his father Gerry McIlroy pose with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds the trophy next to Stuart Cage (L) and Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler after his eight-stroke victory during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy kisses the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy for photographers after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Fans at Rory McIlroy's home club in Holywood watch their hero win the US Open
Fans at Rory McIlroy's home club in Holywood watch their hero win the US Open
Fans at Rory McIlroy's home club in Holywood watch their hero win the US Open
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks with the media after his eight-stroke during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks to the 18th green with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland takes his putter from his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald on the 13th hole during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (R) celebrates his eight-stroke victory with his father Gerry McIlroy (L) on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy for photographers after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks to the 18th green with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Golf fans cheer as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches a putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green to win during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland kisses the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Fans watch the play of Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What next for Rory McIlroy? It is the question everybody wants to know the answer to.

Perhaps it says so much about the extraordinary impact the young Ulsterman made with his extraordinary US Open victory that golf's biggest question mark no longer follows the name ‘Tiger Woods’.

The immediate response to the breathless query is that Ant and Dec are next for Rory McIlroy.

Today the 22-year-old will join the chirpy Geordie duo in a London studio to record an episode of Red or Black?, Simon Cowell's new game show.

Ant and Dec should feel honoured. McIlroy declined the opportunity to go on Letterman last night, the most-watched chat show in America. That also says plenty about sport's newest phenomenon.

Red or Black may well describe the colours of McIlroy's eyes.

Yesterday, after a hefty, sleepless night of celebration in the wake of his eight-shot triumph, McIlroy boarded a 6.15am flight from Washington to Cape Cod to play at a sponsor's day.

After Ant and Dec he will be guest of honour at the golf club in Holywood and the hero's homecoming party is sure to be boisterous.

Darren Clarke, one of McIlroy's mentors, was not about to miss it — he has pulled out of this week's European Tour event in Munich.

Clarke sent his friend, and International Sports Management stablemate, a text before he teed off on Sunday.

“Show them how good you are,” it read. Four hours later, McIlroy had done exactly that, taking the fewest number of shots in 115 years of the US Open, and then his mobile telephone beeped again.

This time it was Rafael Nadal, the world No1 tennis player, passing on his congratulations.

While it might be a tad premature to predict 19 majors from a player who has one and just two other titles in his locker after more than 100 events as a pro, as McIlroy said “the comparisons are natural”.

For now he can simply try to survive the next fortnight of attention and then travel down to Sandwich to begin his Open preparations.

McIlroy will withdraw from next week's French Open to avoid fatigue and will spend a few days reconnaissance on the Kent links before the crowds show up.

“He might not turn up then until Tuesday night,” said his manager, Chubby Chandler.

That will become the way for McIlroy as he deals with the orbiting levels of fame.

It was one of the pieces of advice Jack Nicklaus imparted in the chat they had at the Memorial tournament in Ohio last month.

The meeting was clearly influential for anyone who witnessed the “chalk and cheese” transformation between McIlroy in that final-round 80 of the Masters and 70 days later at Congressional.

“He worked out what he did wrong at Augusta,” said his closest handler, Stuart Cage. “He was incredibly calm all week.”

It will be a genuinely scary proposition if McIlroy can recreate this mix of maturity and metronomic magnificence on a regular basis.

Despite a winning ratio which remains bafflingly low, there is no reason why this turbo-boost to his confidence will not soar him to a new level.

Certainly, McIlroy has proved himself a major animal, having finished in the top three in three of the last four majors and having held a one-shot lead with nine holes to go in the other.

Consider that he has led for 135 of the 144 major holes completed this year and you will understand the magnitude of his performances.

What odds Royal St George's witnessing the second instalment of the ‘Roryslam’?

McIlroy is actually one of the minority on the range who likes Sandwich.

If his driving is anywhere near as accurate as it was in Washington and, more to the point, if he enjoys another career putting week, then his chance does not really need stating.

What a prospect it would be if Woods somehow resurrected his form to provide a challenge.

But the 35-year-old is wearing an immobilising boot to protect an injured Achilles and the fears grow that he will miss his second major in succession.

Nobody wants that, least of all McIlroy.

“I've watched Tiger over the last 15 years and growing up, I always had putts to beat Tiger in the Masters or US Open,” he said.

“So it would be great to go down the stretch with him because I've never really had that experience.

“I hope he can get healthy and can get back playing good golf, because golf is a better place with him playing well.”

It certainly is, especially when the television contracts are up for renewal.

It used to be so simple for Tim Finchem, the chief executive of the US Tour.

He would go into negotiations and say, “We've got Tiger, this is how much we want.”

But now not only is Tiger derailed, the US Tour doesn't have McIlroy.

The fanaticism with which America has taken to him in this tale of redemption has almost defied belief and Finchem will pull out all the stops to entice him to play more in the States.

For the first time in history America has gone without a winner in five majors, meaning the genial, curly-mopped Irishman is the only show in town.

But Finchem and his country may well be left disappointed, if not downright perplexed.

McIlroy's indifference to appearing on Letterman portrays his indifference to America, and although he was deeply touched by the reception at Congressional he wants to remain an international player, based in the comfort zone of his hometown.

He has had a brief taste of the “US Tour treadmill” and did not enjoy the experience.

The US Tour already knows this. Chandler has informed them that both McIlroy and Lee Westwood — who, many overlooked, racked up his fifth top three in seven majors — will once again be absent from the Players Championship, the Tour's flagship event, next year.

But what about the American exposure, what about all those dollars?

“We don't work only around money,” said Chandler.

“They make enough of that.”

McIlroy will make more, however, and the predictions of his money haul are as inevitably as excitable as those of his major haul.

“Marketing specialists” are anticipating him becoming sport's first billion-pound man; all too soon Woods will be a comparative pauper.

Unrealistic? Perhaps, although in the continuing glare of his record-breaking breakthrough it is all too easy to get carried away.

Europe's youngest major winner in 139 years produced Europe's greatest ever golfing performance and has them all talking, all forecasting, all bartering.

Everyone wants a piece of the McIlroy magic.

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