Rory McIlroy is the star of this British Open

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SANDWICH, ENGLAND (AP) - Rory McIlroy slipped into his seat without great fanfare Tuesday, his presence detected by a sudden burst of camera shutters when the photographers realized the star of this British Open had arrived.

It was his first time at a news conference since that Sunday evening at Congressional, and it all looked familiar except that the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland no longer had the shiny U.S. Open trophy at his side.

In its place were expectations of many more majors to follow, perhaps starting with this one.

With a record-setting performance in the major billed as golf’s toughest test, McIlroy has emerged as the favorite to join an elite group of players to capture the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year.

McIlroy knew it was quite an achievement, setting scoring records at the U.S. Open and winning by eight shots. Only in the three weeks he has spent at home has the magnitude started to sink in.

“I didn’t realize how much of a fuss it would create or how much of a buzz,” he said. “It’s been nice. I thought it was great for me to win the U.S. Open, win my first major. The support that I’ve had from people back home, from everyone all over the world, has been pretty overwhelming.”

It was impossible to miss on Tuesday. It almost felt as though Tiger Woods were at the Open, still on top of his game.

There were more media in the room waiting for McIlroy than those who actually listened to Luke Donald, who is No. 1 in the world and coming off a four-shot win in the Scottish Open. They stood against every wall in the room and were three-deep at the doorway.

This is the new world of McIlroy. And he says he’s ready for it.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” McIlroy said. “I’ve always wanted to be a successful golfer and be one of the best players in the world and to win major championships. If I have to put up with a few things along the way, then I’m fine with that.”

McIlroy hasn’t played since he won the U.S. Open, taking time off to catch his breath, go to Wimbledon and a heavyweight fight in Germany, then getting back to work on his game.

It won’t be the same test this week.

Royal St. George’s is not quite as vicious as it was in 2003 when Ben Curtis was the only player to break par, even though the wind was not up to its typical strength that year. McIlroy did most of his preparation on the links course last week, so he missed the big blow Tuesday that showed just how tough this can be.

On the par-3 11th hole, which measures 243 yards, Dustin Johnson knew deep down it would take a driver to reach the green into such a wind, but pride wouldn’t let him. He crushed a 3-wood and still came up short of the green. Phil Mickelson hit driver, then looked back at Johnson and Rickie Fowler and said, “I don’t know why you guys laid up.”

Donald couldn’t reach the fairway on the 564-yard seventh hole, a carry of only about 225 yards. On another hole, he hit 7-iron from 119 yards because he didn’t want the ball to get up in the air.

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