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Rory McIlroy learned a lot about how to handle himself on a big stage from Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy learned a lot about how to handle himself on a big stage from Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Open debut has McIlroy dreaming of the Claret Jug

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Teenager Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland didn't quite get the big finish he wanted, but made sure to soak up as much knowledge and experience as he could. Down the road, he thinks he can contend for an Open title of his own.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (PA) -- Rory McIlroy is hoping that his impressive Open Championship debut is the start of something big.

The 18-year-old from Northern Ireland was third after the first round and finished 5 over par for the tournament at Carnoustie on Sunday. He won the Silver Medal for top amateur, but missed out on his goal of a top-10 finish to secure a spot at next year's Open.

"If I can progress over the next few years, keep improving, I certainly think I can be contending for an Open in the future," said McIlroy, who closed with a 1-over 72 to finish tied for 42nd at 5-over 289. "Hopefully it's the shape of things to come. I think I'm getting better all the time.

"I think it's been a great performance at my first major, first Open Championship, and I can go onto bigger and better things."

McIlroy revealed he picked up much about how to play an Open Championship from Miguel Angel Jimenez. He was paired with the veteran Spaniard for the first two rounds, and the youngster leaves Scotland with invaluable experience.

"You don't have to do extraordinary things to do well out there," he revealed. "You have to just play solid golf, hit fairways, hit greens, take your chances when they come and play for pars on difficult holes. That's what I learned, especially playing with Jimenez this week.

"He knew when he could go for things and he knew when he couldn't and when he couldn't he hit the greens, took his two putts and got out of there," he explained. "He came to the easier holes and took his chances there. You don't have to hit phenomenal shots to do well."

McIlroy now leaves for a 10-day holiday in Dubai before returning to make plans for playing in the Walker Cup and then turning professional in September.

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But before that, he can savor what he has done after a week that, if not quite as good as Justin Rose's fourth-placed finish as an amateur at the 1998 Open, still revealed to the world a talent to keep an eye on.

"It's been a draining week with all the attention, with the early starts and getting home late," he said. "You have to hit a shot all the time. It's difficult to do that for 72 holes, mentally. But it's been great, I've really enjoyed it.

"It's been awesome, the crowds, the atmosphere and I've fed off that during the week," he added. "The ovation I got walking off the 18th was phenomenal. I'm probably going to remember that forever."

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