No meltdown. No collapse this time. Just an impressive Sunday afternoon round of golf for Rory McIlroy, who made sure the U.S. Open was indeed a race for second.
The 22-year-old Irishman culminated a record-setting performance Sunday at Congressional Country Club, winning his first Major Championship by eight strokes over runner-up, Jason Day. McIlroy’s four-day total of 268 was the lowest 73-hole score in U.S. Open history. McIlroy set or tied 12 U.S. Open records this week.
“I couldn’t have asked for much more,” he said. “I’m just so happy to be holding this trophy.”
If not for McIlroy’s wire-to-wire chokehold on the field, players like Davis Love III and Webb Simpson might have been more of a factor in the tournament.
Love, who played collegiate golf at North Carolina, finished at 3-under and tied for 11th. He missed his second consecutive Top 10 finish at the U.S. Open by one stroke.
Simpson, who lives in Charlotte and played golf at Wake Forest, followed up a sizzling 66 on Saturday with a 70 on Sunday to finish 2-under for the weekend, tied for 14th.
Eleven players with North Carolina ties started the tournament on Thursday, and five continued play through the weekend, including Love and Simpson.
Dustin Johnson, who played at Coastal Carolina, and Bill Haas, who also played at Wake Forest, both finished the tournament at 1-over, tied for 23rd.
The fifth player – Kevin Streelman, a former Duke player – struggled on Saturday and Sunday, finishing at 4-over in 67th place.
Simpson was the only player among the North Carolina golfers this year to make the cut in his first U.S. Open. But like most of the first-timers, he admitted he was nervous.
“A little bit more nervous than I ought to be,” he said. “I heard Major champions this week say the pressure is more in a Major, which is refreshing because I was wondering if it was just me. It was good to get that out of my system. It’s all about experience out here. I think the next major will be that much better, and I won’t be that nervous.”
And that also seemed to be the consensus from the players from North Carolina who missed the cut. Elliot Gealy, who is from Salisbury, and former North Carolina golfer, Mark Wilson, both missed the cut by two strokes.
“Had a pretty solid day out there,” Gealy said on his Facebook page. “Needed to have the putter cooperate more this week. Learned a lot about myself. Thank you to everyone supporting me out there. I enjoyed sharing the experience with you guys.”
Zack Byrd, another former Coastal Carolina golfer, also thanked his fans and family via Facebook. He finished at 10-over.
“It was a great week even though it didn’t end how I had hoped,” Byrd’s page said. “I learned a lot, and this won’t be my last rodeo!”
Marc Turnesa, a former N.C. State golfer, missed the cut by three strokes. Ty Tryon, a Raleigh native, and amateur David Chung, a Stanford golfer from Fayetteville, tied at 15-over.
J. Eric Eckard writes about all things golf on his second golfer blog. You also can follow him on Twitter.