It was Rory McIlroy's Usain Bolt moment. Racing to his record-breaking, eight-shot second major victory on Sunday at the US PGA, McIlroy was so far ahead of his rivals he was able to jog over the line with a grin as wide as the South Carolina coastline.
It was a staggering performance – and every bit as jaw-dropping and joyous as Bolt's sprint double in London. "I think there is a huge feelgood factor in Great Britain and in Ireland from the Olympics," McIlroy said. "I obviously wasn't competing, but it is nice to put my name up alongside them. It has been a phenomenal two weeks in London and I am happy I was able to personally cap it off with a win."
McIlroy's 13-under-par score was pure gold. While Bolt threw his signature lightning bolt shape, McIlroy merely waved his cap to the crowd that was cheering his name then hugged his father, Gerry, and cried. McIlroy's trademark hair and freckly, boyish face reminded us that the boy from Belfast, who keeps on delivering Holywood moments, is just 23. And already he is rewriting golf's record books. Of the many records he broke on Sunday, the names he erased were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. This victory felt like the baton was being passed on.
Nike once ran an advertising campaign with children yelling: "I'm Tiger Woods." Woods is now 36. He's no longer cool. Children now want to be McIlroy. "I realise every time my face is on TV that I am a role model and a lot of kids look up to me," he said. "I try to do my best and put myself across as honestly and as modestly as possible. Some can view it as a big responsibility, but if you just go about your life and live it normally, everything's OK. It's a huge honour to be put in that position to have an effect on so many people's lives. It's a nice feeling."
But McIlroy's life is now anything but normal. He jetted out of South Carolina yesterday to spend time with his tennis star girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki. McIlroy admitted the learning curve about how to deal with his life has been huge since winning his first major at the US Open last year. "It was the first time I have ever had to deal with that scrutiny," he said. "That was something I will learn to live with for the rest of my career probably."
McIlroy is back to world No 1 and it feels like golf has a smile on its face again after the scowling years of Woods. People used to be in awe of Woods, but that awe has gone. It's different with McIlroy. People love him. And he loves them back. McIlroy has brought to golf what Bolt has to athletics. But while there is brashness to Bolt, there is a charming modesty to McIlroy. He almost blushes when he is mentioned in the same breath as Woods and Nicklaus. "I don't know. I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as Tiger had," McIlroy said. "But he went on that incredible run and won so many. I'd love to tell you I'm going to do the same, but I just don't know."
Does he think he intimidates his rivals when they see his name on a leader board? "I never try to. I never think like that," he said. "Maybe it has some sort of effect on them, or maybe now it does after closing the tournament off like that." McIlroy almost didn't know what to say about breaking Nicklaus's record margin of victory. "It's nice to break a record like that, especially of Jack Nicklaus, who is the most successful player of all time so far."
The "so far" was a nice touch – and revealing. Winning this second major so quickly after the first could be his launchpad to greatness. "I'm looking forward to the Masters next April," McIlroy said, "and getting a crack at another one."
Majors: Select club
Rory McIlroy becomes only the fifth UK player to win multiple US majors.
W Anderson (Scot): US Open 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905
A Smith (Scot): US Open 1906, 1910
J Barnes (Eng): PGA Championship 1916, 1919; US Open 1921
N Faldo (Eng): Masters 1989, '90, '96
R McIlroy (NI): US Open 2011; PGA Championship 2012
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