- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SANDWICH, ENGLAND (AP) - The strong wind blowing Tuesday across Royal St. George’s was just another sign that the moonscape masquerading as a golf course on the English coast would offer a vastly different test than the one Rory McIlroy solved so easily at the U.S. Open.

The British Open can be a puzzle of its own, as McIlroy found out last year when he followed an opening 63 with a big fat 80 when the wind started howling at St. Andrews. He was too young, it was too early, and someone else got their name on the claret jug.

Then came four days at Congressional Country Club that made people forget Tiger Woods isn’t playing much golf these days.

Now comes a week that might tell us as much about McIlroy as he found out about himself at the U.S. Open. A week that could answer the question of the past month: Just how good can McIlroy be?

We already know the kid is the real thing. He proved that by taking a victory lap around Congressional on the final Sunday in an eight-shot rout that brought back visions of the way Woods used to toy with fellow competitors.

But will McIlroy win major championships in bunches? Will he dominate over time the way he dominated a few weeks back?

History suggests not. Players who are truly great come along only once every era, and this era already has one.

Sitting in a packed interview room Tuesday, though, McIlroy suggested yes.

“All I need to do is focus on my game, and, if I can do that, I know my good golf is good enough to win plenty more tournaments,” he said.

That no one doubts. McIlroy’s swing is a beauty reminiscent of other times, and his putting is good enough to carry him if that lets him down.

Whether it will happen this week is another matter. Although British bookmakers have made McIlroy a prohibitive favorite, only six players have won both the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year in the long history of both championships.

Erasing the inevitable hangover that comes from victory might be the hardest part for McIlroy.

“It will be interesting to see,” said Graeme McDowell, a fellow Northern Irishman who won the U.S. Open last year, then promptly went into a slump. “It’s going to be overwhelming for him. That’s how it was for me last year.”

Unlike McDowell, though, McIlroy seemed to be building for his big win long before it happened. He was in contention at three majors before finally breaking through, learning some painful lessons that served him well when he was poised to win his first major title at the U.S. Open.

He has led seven of the eight rounds of the two major championships so far this year, and managed to come back from a final round collapse at the Masters to lap the field at Congressional.

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