5 Things: McIlroy sets 12 U.S. Open records

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.

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BETHESDA, Md. – Five things you need to know from Rory McIlroy’s historic win at Congressional Country Club:

1. Landslide victory: Rory McIlroy ended his record-setting week at Congressional Sunday with an 8-shot victory at the 111th U.S. Open, becoming the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones won in 1923.

Finishing at 16-under 268, McIlroy, 22, set records for the lowest score and lowest score with relation to par.

“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”

With his final-round 69, McIlroy became the first player to win the U.S. Open with all four rounds in the 60s since Lee Janzen did so in 1993 at Baltusrol. He also was the first wire-to-wire U.S. Open winner since Tiger Woods in 2002 at Bethpage Black.

McIlroy’s win was a product of his superb ball striking and accuracy off the tee. He hit 62 of 72 greens, a record for as long as the USGA has kept such stats.

In all, McIlroy broke or tied 12 U.S. Open records.

The win also comes just months after McIlroy coughed up the 54-hole lead at Augusta by shooting 80 in the final round.

“I felt like I got over the Masters pretty quickly,” McIlroy said. “I kept telling you guys that and I don’t know if you believed me or not. But here you go. It’s nice to prove some people wrong.”

2. Rory Hallelujah: Anywhere you turned this week, players seemed to be heaping praise on McIlroy. A few of the highlights:

• “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger when he was in his real pump, and this guy is the best I’ve ever seen, simple as that.” – Graeme McDowell

• “After playing nine holes yesterday, I sort of realized that this guy is uber-talented, and it’s a course that really fits Rory’s game.” – Y.E. Yang

• “I was playing in the group in front of Rory, and you just hear so many fans just yelling out his name. I think that’s good for the game.” – Jason Day

• “Golf right now is in a really, really good spot with where Rory McIlroy is right now.” – Jason Day

Padraig Harrington went so far as to say that McIlroy would be the one to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

3. Happy Day: Finishing with a sand-save par to shoot 68, Day recorded the third major top 10 of his young career. Impressive.

What’s more impressive is that he’s only pegged it in three majors total. Day finished T-10 at his first PGA Championship, at Whistling Straits; second at his first Masters; and second this week in his first U.S. Open attempt.

“I’m very excited that I finished second,” Day said. “I’m not going to go home and cry because I got whooped.”

Day now has seven top 10s this year and he hasn’t missed a cut since April’s Shell Houston Open.

4. Wet and wild: Prior to the start of the tournament, players could not say enough how “fair” USGA executive director Mike Davis had set up Congressional for this week. Unfortunately, near-nightly downpours in D.C. kept the course from becoming the hard, fast U.S. Open monster the USGA had anticipated.

Despite the rain, players were thrilled with this year’s setup.

“Besides Rory, I finished 8 under, and the rest, obviously it was a little easier U.S. Open than in the past,” Day said. “But I think the USGA did a really well-done job out there. The crowds were in it, and I think everyone just had a really good time.”

McDowell was perhaps the most vocal about the impact of weather on the course setup.

“I shot 4-under par on the weekend and barely made a move,” said Graeme McDowell. “That’s not U.S. Open numbers.

“There’s nothing you can do about Mother Nature. The USGA, Mike Davis sets a fantastic golf course up. This week it was just soft, and the way these greens were shaped, you’re always going to make a ton of birdies.”

The soft greens yielded 32 rounds under par on Sunday, the most for a single round in U.S. Open history, breaking the previous record of 18. In total, there were 108 sub-par rounds for the week, second most all-time.

5. Amateur hour: UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay won the race within the race – low amateur. Cantlay’s even-par 284 total was the lowest by an amateur since Jim Simons shot 283 in 1971.

“It means so much because there’s so much history,” Cantlay said. “Obviously it’s my first U.S. Open, so it means a lot to me that I was able to compete well in my first one.”

The two other amateurs to make the cut were Russell Henley (4 over, T-42) and Brad Benjamin (21 over, 72nd). Henley finished T-16 last year at Pebble Beach.

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