SANDWICH, England — Rory McIlroy slipped into his seat without great fanfare Tuesday, his presence detected by a sudden burst of camera shutters when the photographers realized the star of this British Open had arrived.
It was his first time at a news conference since that Sunday evening at Congressional, and it all looked familiar except that the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland no longer had the shiny U.S. Open trophy at his side.
In its place were expectations of many more majors to follow, perhaps starting with this one.
With a record-setting performance in the major billed as golf's toughest test, McIlroy has emerged as the favorite to join an elite group of players to capture the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year.
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McIlroy knew it was quite an achievement, setting scoring records at the U.S. Open and winning by eight shots. Only in the three weeks he has spent at home has the magnitude started to sink in.
"I didn't realize how much of a fuss it would create or how much of a buzz," he said. "It's been nice. I thought it was great for me to win the U.S. Open, win my first major. The support that I've had from people back home, from everyone all over the world, has been pretty overwhelming."
It was impossible to miss on Tuesday. It almost felt as though Tiger Woods were at the Open, still on top of his game.
There were more media in the room waiting for McIlroy than those who actually listened to Luke Donald, who is No. 1 in the world and coming off a four-shot win in the Scottish Open. They stood against every wall in the room and were three-deep at the doorway.
This is the new world of McIlroy. And he says he's ready for it.
"This is what I've always wanted to do," McIlroy said. "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."
McIlroy hasn't played since he won the U.S. Open, taking time off to catch his breath, go to Wimbledon and a heavyweight fight in Germany, then getting back to work on his game.
McIlroy did everything right at Congressional, which is why so much is expected of him. He still believes, like so many other athletes, that the public's expectations are not as great as his own. Still, this is a different week, and a very difference major.
"I don't think I'll be able to play that sort of golf every week I tee it up — I hope I do, but I can't see it," he said. "Yeah, expectations are going to be high. 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. 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."
But there is something special about this kid.
It's not only his simple, fundamentally sound swing, but the way he draws people to him because he looks like he's having so much fun. Even as his celebrity grows, McIlroy appears to stay grounded. In his final preparation for the British Open, he went to Royal County Down at twilight, carried his own bag and played nine holes with his father tagging along.
"The thing about Rory is that he plays golf with a real flair and a real charisma, and I think fans are drawn to that," Phil Mickelson said. "He plays it with this youthful exuberance, and it's fun to watch and see somebody play golf like that and really enjoy it. He played beautifully, obviously, and ended up winning. But it's not just how he won with his great play, but also the way he interacts with people."