Is it coronation time? Has the torched been passed? Do we need a new face to carry golf into the future? These are the questions that I hear being bantered around the “water cooler”. It continues to amaze me at how fast we want to jump to create the next superstar of golf. Rory McIlroy is just in his mid-twemties. Granted he has three major championships on his mantle; however, this does not mean he is the next great one.
Rory McIlroy put on a display of golf during the British Open this past month that shows, as I have said before, “If Rory will focus on his golf and minimize the distractions he can play great golf.” He blew the field away at the US Open at Congressional and he did it in his PGA Championship, too. Now comes the 2014 Open Championship.
Day one, Rory put on a display of golf for the world to see he was going to be a force that week. He went after the golf course with a sharp knife and carved Hoylake. This led to his lead that ultimately would stand for the next 54 holes. Friday’s have been Rory’s achilles heel in the past, but not this week. He backed up his great first round with a great second round. Listening to the golf broadcast and reports the tournament was over after 36 holes.
We have seen this type of lead built up before and have it disappear in the final two rounds. But not this time. It was great to watch how McIlroy continued to play near flawless golf. At one point he had been caught by Rickie Fowler and then Rory took his game to the next level. Like a true seasoned veteran, he turned up the intensity of his work and effort to pull away from Rickie and the field. There were many very good rounds posted on Saturday. Maybe the lead was too much to overcome. Then it happened, Rory made a staement that would have many shaking their heads. He eagles 16 and 18 on Saturday. This was the exclamation point for this year’s British Open. This is where I think the Open Championship was won. However, we have seen leads blown in many major championships. For the most part, Majors are lost not won. Can Rory hold on to win the third leg of the Grand Slam?
I think that day four was a lot more compelling golf than what anyone would have expected. Rickie Fowler was in the final group paired with Rory. This was a familiar place for Fowler as less than one month previously, he was in a shoot out with Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open. Could the outcome be different this time for Rickie? Could Sergio win his first major?
Day four, the birdies were flying. While Rory did not play flawlessly, he played like a true champion. He did what he needed to do throughout the day. That was almost not enough. The champioship actually came down to the second shot on the 18th hole. McIlroy had a two stroke lead over Garcia and three shot lead over Fowler. Fowler could tie with a double eagle on 18. Rory hit his second shot on the 72nd hole and for a brief moment everyone held their breath. He hit the shot over the out of bounds and had Rory looking to his caddie. Once his caddie told him the ball made it into the bunker, you could see McIlroy’s sigh of relief. Rory was finally in control. Yes, he lead wire to wire but not until he hit that third shot onto the green did the “Champion Golfer of the Year” allow himself to look ahead. He was victorious.
Rory McIlroy did what he had to do to get the job done. Every time one of his fellow competitors made a move, and many good rounds were posted on Sunday, Rory answered the call with more solid golf. This is a great sign that Rory is ready to take on the world in golf. Does this mean he now has to carry golf on his shoulders for the next 15 years? I hope not. Let the mid-twenties young man from Ireland be a young man. Don’t heap all of the pressure of being “the next best” on him. Let his clubs do the talking. That was what the Greatest of all time did. The media does not decide greatness, performance does. The story is still to unfold so just enjoy it.
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