Augusta's lost boy turns into Holywood starlet


"Rory McIlroy is back at the top – but staying there is a different story".

By the look of it, the young Ulsterman did not read the front page of USA Today yesterday morning, the newspaper with the widest circulation in America. And if he did, he tossed it aside and carried on with his breakfast. Waffle. No treacle.

Of course, it will be the same old story until McIlroy, all 22 years of him, strides out on a Sunday to claim his first major. There's a curious mix of sentiment and cynicism when it comes to McIlroy. As much as they cried for him at Augusta, deep down they also smirked. Tough game, majors. It's not for kids.

The Alan Hansen theory of professional sport has some serious weight at golf's most demanding major. Jack Nicklaus was four months older than McIlroy when he won his first US Open; Tiger Woods did not prevail at his national championship until he was 24. Then he spreadeagled a field in a manner not seen before or since. Until now. "Don't wake up, kid," roared the American broadcaster when McIlroy's 113-yard pitch found the cup for an eagle on the eighth.

Don't worry. McIlroy goes into the weekend with his eyes as wide open as the gap to his nearest rival. The time he has shared with Nicklaus in the last few years will have made him acutely aware what it entails. "Jack told me, 'You've really got to want it, you've got to go out there and expect to play well'," said McIlroy. That accounts for the strut. "After Augusta I said I needed to be a little bit more cocky, a little bit more arrogant on the course," added McIlroy. "I've just tried to have a bit of an attitude, you know... Even if you get six ahead, try to get seven ahead, eight ahead, 10 ahead. Just try to keep going."

Brave words, but no matter how determined he is to guard "against being tentative" a measure of caution might be wise. The USGA do not like their leaders in double digits – they're not even fond of them in single digits. The ground is drying, the pins are going into hiding, the Congressional is about to launch a very public inquiry.

There are precedents; of course there are. While the example of Woods in 2000 was last night being breathlessly cited (six clear at halfway, 15 clear at the end, the only player under par), the whisper of Gil Morgan was rustling through the Maryland trees. In 1992 at Pebble Beach, this doctor of optometry became the first player in the history of the US Open to get to 10-under. It was after three holes of his third round, 13 holes later than McIlroy. By the seventh hole he was 12-under, seven clear. By Sunday evening he was five-over and in a tie for 13th. He had dropped 17 shots in the space of 29 holes. Morgan had dared to go where nobody had before. It proved to be his temple of doom.

However, there is rather more of the Indiana Jones about the starlet from Holywood. McIlroy has already banished the demons of Friday; the 80 in the second round of the Open is way back in the scrapbook. Now for the demons of Sunday and the exorcism of that other 80 which dances like a devil in the narrative of what, many overlook, remains a burgeoning career.

So much for the lost boy of Amen Corner. The young candidate at Congressional was forcing them into a recount last night. As some wag put it: "McIlroy could shoot 80 on Sunday and still win by five."

News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness