McIlroy aims for major glory

By Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy fired a seven-iron to eight feet at the 18th, rolled home the putt and tossed his ball into the grandstand like a veteran.

And as he closed with a one-over par 72 to claim the silver medal for the leading amateur on five over par, he realised that one day he could make the same walk as a major winner.

Reflecting on an amazing week at Carnoustie, the 18 year old from Holywood in Co Down blew away any doubt about his superstar potential.

Asked if he could one day lift the Open title itself, he said: "If I can progress over the next few years and keep improving, I certainly think I can be contending for an Open in the future, hopefully in the near future."

It was no idle boast from McIlroy, who hit three birdies and four bogeys in the final round to outscore playing partner Scott Verplank by six shots leave major winners such as Tom Lehman, Michael Campbell and Mark O'Meara in his wake.

He also outgunned world No 9 Luke Donald by eight shots as he became the first Irishman to win the silver medal since Joe Carr in 1958

Delighted to achieve his goal for the week, McIlroy beamed: "Hopefully it's the shape of things to come. I think I'm getting better all the time, progressing as a player.

"Hopefully I've got a few more Open Championships in me. I think it's a great performance, first major, first Open Championship, and hopefully I can go on to bigger and better things.

"It's been a pretty draining week for me, obviously with all the attention. It's more mentally out there, because every shot out there, you have to hit a good shot all the time.

"It's difficult to do that for 72 holes and early starts and getting home late and stuff. But it's been great and I've really enjoyed it."

As for the professional game, McIlroy is prepared to wait until after the Walker Cup and then go to the Q-School. If he gets his card he could be playing in the Open every year from now on.

He grinned: "It's only another month away or so. It shouldn't be that long before I'm a pro. But it's you only get to play in The Open once a year, anyways. It's just a completely different atmosphere than anything I've ever played in before.

"If I can get to play in an Open every year for the next, I don't know, 30 or 40 years, I'd really enjoy it and couldn't wait to go out there.

"Winning the silver medal was my goal at the start of the week. I said to myself on the weekend that I could try to just finish in the top 10. But I obviously didn't do that. The draw didn't really help me.

"If I had shot a better score in the second round, I would have been a little bit later, and the condition would have been a bit better for me.

"But overall I'm really happy. To end the week with a birdie on the last was pretty special.

"I'm not disappointed the way I played, the scoring yesterday was unbelievable. I couldn't believe how low the scores were.

"I thought it was quite difficult yesterday and I played pretty good to shoot 73. But overall the way I played on the weekend, I'm not disappointed at all.

"It would have been nice to get back in next year, but I've still got a couple of chances to do that. I'm pleased the way I played and it's the best I could have done."

His birdie on the 18th, which drew a standing ovation from a large part of the crowd cramming the grandstands, just edged out his 250 yard two-iron to the same hole on Thursday as his top memory of the week.

He said: "The ovation I got walking up 18 was phenomenal. It's something probably I'm going to remember that forever. I had goosebumps coming up the fairway."

McIlroy's next big date is a 10-day holiday in Dubai, where he plans to go skiing in the snow dome and go shopping with girlfriend Holly Sweeney.

But is summer is only jut gathering momentum with the Walker Cup at Royal Co Down set to be his amateur swansong.

McIlroy went out in the worst of the weather yesterday, dropping shots at the fifth, where he was in a fairway bunker, and the sixth, where he hooked his tee shot.

But he bounced back with back-to-back birdies, firing a seven iron to eight feet at the 13th before getting up and down for a four at the long 14th.

Bogeys at the 15th and 16th disappointed him, but he was delighted to play the last four in one under par - bringing his back nine totals for the week to two under par.

He said: "I played the last four holes this week for all four rounds at one over par, which is pretty good. And I think I played the back nine under par. So I'm really, really happy with that."

Despite his new worldwide fame, McIlroy does no think he will change as a person.

His dad will still give him a hard time if he misbehaves.

He said: "Still the same old Rory McIlroy. I'll go up to Holywood Golf Club after this, I'll see my mates and stuff, and nothing will have changed.

"But I'm sure I'll probably have a bit more attention after the way I played this week. I'm sort of prepared for it, but it's still going to be a bit of a change for me.

"Dad was getting ripped into me for throwing a club on 11. But apart from that, I think he's happy the way I played. But he's always got something to moan about."

As for the lessons he has learned this week, the Holywood hotshot believes he has had a major education that will stand to him in the future.

He said "You don't have to do extraordinary things to do well out here, you just have to play solid golf, hit fairways, hit greens.

"You don't have to do anything very special. You just have to take your chances when they come and then play for pars on difficult holes.

"I think that's what I learned, especially playing with Jiménez this week. He knew when he could go for things and he knew when he couldn't.

"And when he couldn't, he just hit middles of greens and took his twoputt and got out of there.

"There's no easy holes out there, but the more easy ones, then he took his chances there. And I think you don't have to hit phenomenal shots, just play solid golf and you'll do well."

Verplank singled McIlroy out as a player wise beyond his years and the youngster revealed that they had a brief chat on the 72nd green.

He said: "He just said very well done, a great week, good luck in Tour school, and don't beat the Americans too bad in the Walker Cup.

"So that was pretty much it. He said hopefully you're out on the PGA TOUR in a few years, but by that time I'll be on the Champions Tour. He's a great guy. Nice guy, really nice guy."