For four days, McIlroy charmed the American galleries with his mesmerizing swing, his dazzling skill and his boyish humility. He left Congressional Country Club with the U.S. Open trophy tucked under his arm -- a complete package entering a limitless horizon.
You can't blame everyone for getting carried away with his promise. It's been 14 years since a prodigy arrived on the stage and delivered so quickly on the hype. A host of hopefuls has paraded through and never quite lived up to whatever greatness we expected of them: Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Michelle Wie, etc.
Finally, along comes a kid who delivered in record-setting fashion. McIlroy has the tools to become one of the all-time greats. He has the character to become one of the all-time favorites.
With his eight-shot victory that was never in doubt from the first round onward, all eyes remained focused on the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland. But that doesn't mean there weren't some other notable performances to both praise and critique.
Here are the winners and losers from the 111th U.S. Open:
BIRDIE: Jason Day. All the glory went to McIlroy, as it did to Charl Schwartzel at the Masters Tournament and Martin Kaymer at the PGA Championship, but the 23-year-old Australian has tied for 10th, tied for second and finished alone in second in his second, third and fourth career majors without getting any scar tissue. Oh yeah, he also tied for sixth in the Players Championship and tied for ninth at the WGC Match Play Championship this year. He's a rising force to be reckoned with, and a long rivalry with McIlroy would be welcome.
BOGEY: Americans. Seriously, Robert Garrigus and Kevin Chappell are the best we can do? Are you kidding me? That Anthony was only the third best Kim in the final results says all you need to know about the state of American golf.
PAR: Lee Westwood. This eternal bridesmaid could have mailed it in after an opening 75 left him 10 behind, but he fought his way back to a tie for third. One day ... maybe.
BIRDIE: Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen. The recent young major winners from South Africa made positive steps toward raising their profiles further with top-10 finishes. We haven't heard the last of either.
BOGEY: Tiger Woods. With his conspicuous absence because of injury, it was only too natural for everybody making McIlroy comparisons to refer to Tiger in the past tense. Get well soon.
BIRDIE: Garcia. For all he's been through, the Spaniard still keeps himself relevant on the major stages. Must be frustrating to see McIlroy achieve what he couldn't as a young prodigy, but a tie for seventh is encouraging.
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. After sounding so positive before the tournament, Lefty looked lost and unable to find any consistency with whatever he hit off the tee box. Hopefully he can get it back before the PGA returns to Atlanta Athletic Club in August.
BIRDIE: Graeme McDowell. The defending champ did well to tie for 14th, but he showed great class in hanging around to witness and welcome his young countryman into the major fold. It's nice to see that kind of camaraderie and respect. (In the same vein, kudos to Padraig Harrington as well.)
BOGEY: The Golf Boys. After releasing a playful music video with some "disturbing" costumes, a Bubba Watson birdie on No. 18 kept them from getting skunked. Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane went "Oh, oh, oh!" all the way home.
BIRDIE: Robert Rock. Despite visa troubles that prevented him from arriving until hours before his first round, the Englishman shot three rounds of par or better and tied for 23rd.
PAR: Davis Love III. The Ryder Cup captain had another fine showing in a major, but a couple of short missed putts at the end of rounds cost him a chance to get back to the Masters next year.
BIRDIE: Russell Henley. The University of Georgia star sent yet another signal that he'll eventually be a pro to reckon with and a player that fans will enjoy for his outgoing personality. He showered the galleries with smiles, waves and golf balls.
BIRDIE: Chubby Chandler. The European agent has got the Midas touch these days. His clients include McIlroy, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and Westwood. That's a lot of hardware and No. 1 rankings to market. I wish I had just a piece of his commission.
PAR: Congressional. Yes, the course played too easy and lacked the typical U.S. Open flavor. But to the USGA's credit, they didn't try to trick it up when weather spoiled setup plans.
BOGEY: The D.C. metro area. Much of the highway system looked like Kabul, and the traffic jams were legendary. Maybe they'll have it all fixed and flowing fast enough to earn a return engagement in 2026 during the nation's 250th anniversary.