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McIlroy: I learned from Masters

Rory McIlroy and Colin Montgomerie will remember the US Open at Congressional as long as they live - but for reasons that could not be more contrasting.

In 1997 Montgomerie was heckled when he led and in tears when he lost, a bogey at the penultimate hole leaving him, as he is still today, without a major to his name. McIlroy, another overseas invader, was cheered when he led - all week in his case - and in heaven when he won.

The 22-year-old's admits his Masters meltdown - his closing round of 80 in April - had to be taken into consideration, and he said: "I think every cloud has a silver lining. What happened at Augusta was a great thing for me in terms of support. It's just been incredible the way people have supported me and cheered for me the whole week."

He added: "It feels like a home match. To be able to have that when you come over here and feel like you're one of their own is probably going to be pretty important in the next few years."

With Phil Mickelson in his forties and struggling at the moment and Tiger Woods losing some of his fan base after his sex scandal - and currently out injured - there could indeed be long-term implications.

Americans have not gone five majors without one of their own winning since The Masters began in 1934 and, as was the case with Seve Ballesteros in Britain, McIlroy has the character and the game to take over the popularity mantle in the States as well as the rest of the world.

As last year's champion Graeme McDowell described it, his Ryder Cup partner has been "an accident waiting to happen" on the major stage for some time.

Yet for all the talk of prodigy as a teenager - he shot 61 at Royal Portrush when he had just turned 16 - McIlroy reckons it was only 12 months ago that he believed he could do what he did these past few days.

"I think the first time that I realised it for myself was when Graeme won at Pebble," he said. "Then Louis (Oosthuizen) won at St Andrews, then Martin (Kaymer) won at Whistling Straits, then I got myself in a good position at The Masters.

"When Graeme won it made me realise that winning a major championship was achievable. To see a great friend like that win a major, it only inspires you to go out and emulate them."


From Belfast Telegraph