Three weeks on from his tour de force at Congressional Country Club, when the 22-year-old won his first major championship by eight strokes, McIlroy arrived at Royal St George’s rested and relaxed and ready to add another major title to his resumé.
Tomorrow morning’s opening round on the Kent links will be his first since that closing 69 at Congressional gave him a finishing score of 268, the lowest score in US Open history, at a championship-record 16 under par.
The performance has made McIlroy a worldwide star, changing his life and the way he is regarded forever, something he has already noticed in the whirlwind that has followed his victory. “The first 10 days after winning the US Open was a bit hectic trying to see everyone and going here, there and everywhere,” McIlroy said, “but the last 10 days have been good.
“I’ve got back into my routine, been practising a lot. I was here (at Royal St George’s) last week for a couple of days and got two good practice rounds in so I feel my preparation has been really good. It was nice to relax and sort of take it all in after the US Open but I know that the time for reflection wasn’t really at this point of the season, it’s at the end.
“I’ve got to forget what happened three weeks ago and just come in here and try to win another golf tournament.”
Speaking to the world’s media in a packed press conference room at Royal St George’s, McIlroy accepted that life may be a little more difficult for him with all the attention he was garnering as a major champion.
“I’ve already noticed over the past three weeks it has been a life-changing experience and it’s just something I’ve got to deal with. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. 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.”
Coping with even greater expectations than he had experienced since bursting on the professional golf scene in 2007 as the next big thing had also been considered and McIlroy said they were surpassed only by his own.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to play that sort of golf every week I tee it up,” he said of his US Open display. “I hope I do but I can’t see it. Expectations are going to be high but I have high expectations myself. I want to go out there and try and win a lot of golf tournaments and win majors and become the best player in the world.
“So they can say what they want, they can make the comparisons. 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.”
If anything, McIlroy concluded, there had been an easing of the pressure on him having captured a major title.
“It means every time I come into a press conference or do an interview I don’t have to answer that question, whereas a lot of guys still do,” he reasoned. “So it has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Now I can talk about winning my second one after having won the first.
“So it’s a nice pressure to have lifted off you. Even though I was in contention for the last four majors... it feels like it’s been coming for a long time, personally, but it’s nice to get that first one out of the way and focus on getting more.”