Ross Fisher and Rory McIlroy returned to Europe yesterday morning full of confidence for their golfing futures following top 10 finishes at the US Open. Fisher, from Ascot, was in contention right up to the 71st hole before settling for fifth place at Bethpage Black, three shots behind the maiden major winner Lucas Glover of the United States. And Northern Ireland's McIlroy claimed a tie for 10th on his US Open debut after shooting one of the best rounds of the final day on Monday, a two-under 68 to get him within six shots of the winning score of four under.
As with so many contenders as players completed their final rounds after a week of heavy showers here, Fisher's hopes were undone by bogeys at the 15th and 17th holes. With the world Nos 1 and 2 Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson also coming to grief over the closing holes, as well as the former Open champion David Duval, Fisher took heart he was in good company.
"It was tough," Fisher said. "You are looking at the leader board. You've got Lucas Glover and Phil Mickelson and a certain Mr Woods. So there's some good golfers. I was trying to get it right up top. I didn't manage it this week, but hopefully there will be things to come after this. I'll have a lot more US Opens and majors to play in so I'm thoroughly looking forward to coming back and playing some more."
Both Fisher and McIlroy also made impressive Masters debuts in April, the Englishman tying for 30th and the 20-year-old from Holywood taking a share of 20th place at Augusta National. A strong finish at Bethpage as well has given both men encouragement they can compete at the majors for a long time to come. McIlroy said: "I feel that I can be patient when I want to be. That's what the majors are all about, and making pars. I only made one bogey on the seventh and it was very solid golf. I know that my game can handle majors. I had a great last round in Augusta, six under for the last 10 holes there, and then a 68 here. It would be a little different if I was in the final group in the lead, but hopefully I can get that experience and it is a case of trying to get that position soon."
Both players will head straight to Germany for tomorrow's BMW International Open in Munich but McIlroy is already setting his sights on the next major of the year, the Open Championship at Turnberry in three weeks.
"I don't know if I have a better chance to win a major on a links course because I have a very high ball flight," he said. "If a links course is calm I feel I would have a very good chance. Most links courses are very short compared to the modern-day ones and, with my ball flight and a little bit of run, then I can hit the ball far. Hopefully, Turnberry will be benign this year."