Bethesda: Rory McIlroy`s youthful charm and overpowering form created a win for the ages at the US Open, personality and performance mixing in a way unseen since an exhuberant 21-year-old Tiger Woods won his first major at the 1997 Masters.
After the infamous Woods sex scandal and a left knee injury that kept the 14-time major champion from the US Open, a 22-year-old boy wonder from Northern Ireland joyfully delivered a record-crushing romp to his first major title.
"He has probably the most talent I`ve ever seen from a golfer," World No. 1 Luke Donald said of McIlroy. "He has a great attitude. He`s very good with fans, and it`s very good for the game."
He might be the "Next Tiger" golf has been searching for, but hold off on "Rory-mania" for now. A "Rory Slam" like the four majors in a row "Tiger Slam" Woods began with a 15-shot win at the 2000 US Open, is a way off.
"I think that`s a long way away," McIlroy said. "I`m going to take three weeks off, get myself ready for the Open Championship, give myself a great chance to prepare well and hopefully give myself a good chance to win that."
McIlroy, an experienced links player, will be a favorite when the British Open fight for the Claret Jug starts July 14 at Royal St. George`s.
"I can`t really look much further ahead," McIlroy said. "It`s great to get this first major in the bag and hopefully I can get a few more. If it might not be this year, then that`s fine. I`ve got plenty more years to get a few more."
By July, the echoes of "Let`s Go, Rory" might be dying down at Congressional Country Club, because McIlroy has already become a fan favorite beyond golf for his humble style, dynamic charisma and appreciative tone.
He sent a picture via Twitter of him drinking from the US Open Championship Trophy with the message "Tastes good!!!" and later thanked people for their congratulatory tweets.
McIlroy`s Twitter site picture is of him in Haiti with youth in need from a charity trip with a self-description line of: "I hit a little white ball around a field sometimes".
And for all his naysaying, the US Open was not that far from being a culmination of McIlroy`s magic instead of the launch pad.
He matched a major record with a 63 to begin last year`s British Open at St. Andrews, but was in the wrong place, the course, at the wrong time, when the winds began to howl, and soared to a round-two 80 on his way to sharing third.
At last year`s PGA Championship, McIlroy missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to finish one shot back, sharing third for the second year in a row.
And last April at Augusta, he led by four after 54 holes but pulled his shot left off the 10th tee, took a triple bogey and melted down on the back nine, finishing in a share of 15th but learning a lesson about how to manage a lead.
That failure made him a sympathetic hero in a tragedy turned to triumph.
"To come back straightaway at the US Open and to win, it was nice," McIlroy said. "To get one out of the way early, you can always call yourself a major champion. Hopefully in the not so distant future I`ll be able to call myself a multiple major champion."
When McIlroy reached the 10th tee in his last round Sunday at Congressional, he backspun the ball inches from the cup to set up a tap-in birdie, sending a message to all -- there would be no horror-show ending this day.
McIlroy finished on a US Open record 16-under par 268, becoming the youngest US Open winner since a 21-year-old Bobby Jones in 1923.
"There`s a lot of joy and, especially with this victory, there`s quite a bit of relief as well," McIlroy said. "More joy, though."
McIlroy wants his childhood idol Woods to return healthy and as quickly as possible. He graciously indulges Woods comparisons but he still ranks 13 major titles shy in the one that matters most.
"When you win a major quite early in your career, everyone is going to draw comparisons. It`s natural," McIlroy said. "He`s Tiger Woods. I`m just happy to be sitting here with a trophy that has his name on it."
When Ireland`s Padraig Harrington says McIlroy is the man with the best chance of catching the record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, McIlroy`s dismay was genuine.
"It`s nice people say that he could be this or he could be that or he could win 20 major championships, but at the end of the day, I`ve won one," McIlroy said.
"I obviously want to add to that tally. But you can`t let what other people think of you, influence what you have to do. You have to just go out there, work hard, believe in yourself. That`s all you can really do."