- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BETHESDA, MD. (AP) - The most famous comeback in the U.S. Open began with a question from Arnold Palmer as he tried to explain how he could win in 1960 at Cherry Hills despite being seven shots behind.

“Doesn’t 280 always win the Open?” he asked.

The U.S. Open usually plays as a par 70, and four rounds at even par was 280. That once was the standard for winning the major known as the toughest test in golf. Even as Ken Venturi talked about his 1964 win at Congressional, he noted becoming only the second player in U.S. Open history to break 280.

This year, such a score was barely enough to be in the top 10.

The 111th U.S. Open will be remembered foremost as the coming out party of Rory McIlroy, a supremely gifted 22-year-old from Northern Ireland. For all the records he broke, his most remarkable feat was making golf look easy. Few others can do that.

The other memory? All those red numbers on the scoreboard.

McIlroy finished at 16-under 268, two sets of numbers that are simply astounding for this major. The runner-up was Jason Day of Australia at 8 under, which would have been enough to win 46 of the previous 50 U.S. Opens and force a playoff in three others.

This was as easy as a U.S. Open gets.

“I don’t want to say anything to cheapen what Rory did, because if this were an old-school U.S. Open, he might have won by more,” said Andy North, a two-time winner of the “old-school” U.S. Open. “But he hit seven wedges into the green on the front nine. I guarantee you that’s never happened in a U.S. Open.”

Even USGA executive director Mike Davis said Congressional was a pushover.

“From 1 to 10 _ with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest _ I’m not so sure Congressional wouldn’t have been a 1 or a 1 1/2,” Davis said Tuesday. “If we had another 10 U.S. Opens there, I don’t know how it would play any easier.”

That wasn’t an indictment of Congressional, but the hand the USGA was dealt.

Overnight rain kept the greens soft. Pitch marks returned to the U.S. Open. There was rarely more than a breeze all four days. And most curious of all, Davis said the rough didn’t grow.

“Even though the height of rough should have been enough, it wasn’t,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the turf was soft for a major designed to be hard.

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