A Rory You Can Set Your Watch To

Posted: June 20, 2011 in GOLF

The game of golf always seems to provide the sharpest of champions, they’re clean shaven, polished and masters of confidence. They have a certain aura about them that makes them a slight cut above the rest, and the younger Rory on tour certainly falls into that category.

Some people will be blogging today much like myself about the past four days events, on how this is a new rising star, another new major champion in the past 10 majors. I will do some of that, but I will take no credit for making any calls or knowing something someone else does not. I simply remember what I saw, what I read and what I watched.

Last April was when I first heard of this player, not when he was 12, not when he was 16 but last year when he won the Wells Fargo Championship. This was an impressive tournament because he stormed back after two mediocre rounds of 72 then 73 to open the tournament.

To some this is a pretty decent score, it keeps you somewhat in the mix on most non-major events but you’ve got serious work to do on the weekend, and that’s exactly what he did. McIlroy followed up his OK Thursday/Friday rounds with a masterful 63 then 62, surprising everyone but himself to take the win.

This is when I read the next-big-thing stories, the next Jack Nicklaus remarks and comparison articles. The watch was on for when he would finally win his first major title and place himself in the running for best ever.

The mark however stands clear at 18 majors, like in tennis your career is not marked by the individual wins so much as championships, or majors. Which makes you wonder sometimes why the major? If someone won 100 events but no major would they not be in the discussion as one of the greats? Would they not get any claim to fame?

I looked at the PGA list of all time wins and realized 100 wins would to me, make someone one of the top 5 greatest ever as a) a century mark of wins is incredible no matter what, and b) the most right now is Sam Snead at 82. To surpass that mark by 18 and to have the lead certainly would make you one of the best.

However it is the moment, and coming through in it that puts golfer’s and tennis players in a league of their own in professional sports. In no other sport are you on the stage by yourself taking glory and failure in the same degree, as these are the two most popular individual sports. In team sports a star can be blamed for the loss but it is the team that is credited with the win.

I think that is why the major is such a great measuring tool of ones greatness, because the true great athletes are the ones who relish that moment and opportunity to shine through and prove to the world how great they are. That you are able to harness your talents, your strengths and face your weaknesses head on and conquer them once and for all.

Sunday Rory McIlroy not only confronted his weaknesses, he corned them in a dark ally then made sure they would never bother him again. He made them wish they had never shown their face to him in the first place.

Anyone who has an appreciation for golf watched the Master’s in April and remembers the breath taking pace McIlroy started out with. He shot a 65 to start the tournament, my favourite tournament along with the British Open, which he then followed up with a strong 68 to maintain his lead going into the weekend. However this was the first time he had such a lead on this big of a stage and it showed come Saturday when he needed to be his best.

That was not the case this time around however, McIlroy maintained his swagger and confidence in his step every time he was walking up to the next tee box or strolling down the fairway to hit many of his well placed drives.

One of the great things I was noticing during the weekend play and the highlights was his ability to let his short game help his putting. Rarely did I see him place to ball far from the pin requiring an incredible putt to save par. He played very strategic, with a purpose, as if to say to everyone “Did you see the Master’s? See this and let’s never talk about that day again”, and I don’t plan on it.

The U.S. Open has a history or long fairways, fast greens and insane rough. Last year players were going down almost to the beach to hit balls instead of take penalty strokes. The rough usually requires a team of weed whackers to get through and Rory played the perfect game plan, just keep the ball in the short grass and you’ll be fine, and he was.

There never seemed to be an answer for the record setting Northern Irishman on any of these days, he was in a league of his own. The most notable achievements of this tournament are: lowest score in US Open going into Saturday, lowest score at a US Open for 72 holes, all four rounds under 70, and youngest winner in over 80 years, most importantly he is younger than Nicklaus when he won his first major title.

Now these may be limited records to the US Open but this is just the beginning for this young golfer, as is for many young players on tour. We are seeing young non North American talent scattered all over the top of the leader boards this year, and it’s exactly what golf needs.

With Tiger Woods gone for the foreseeable short term future, the young talent needs to come through and make people watch again, either with their character and passion or their pure golf talent.

McIlroy was not discovered this weekend or delivered to the world, he has been making his mark for years now and is finally reaching the apex of his stardom. Sports sites and news sites are talking about him today, but those who knew him before are not surprised, we are appreciative.

Hopefully golf has found its star for a while now, who will be challenged but ultimately just driven towards even more success. With all the young talent around him, McIlroy will surely keep his eyes in his rear view mirror watching for anyone sneaking up on him.

Once upon a time a young Tiger appeared on the big stage and wowed us year after year as he took the PGA by storm. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got your eye out for hurricane Rory and you can’t wait until he strikes again.

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