We’ve known for a couple years about Rory McIlroy, the 22-year-old professional golfer from Ireland that displays the level of talent last seen from Tiger Woods. If he weren’t Irish, we would probably call him the All American young man. Last weekend McIlroy won the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club to claim his first major championship. There will be more.
McIlroy dusted the field, chewed up Congressional and spit it out with a record setting performance of 16 under par with Jason Day being his nearest competitor, eight shots back. U.S. Open courses are not supposed to be this easy. The last 10 U.S. Open champions were a combined 14 under par.
The USGA used to go all out to make the Open courses as difficult as possible. Now they are allowing some leniency on the first cut of rough, but the weather, and McIlroy’s precision game, led to the undoing of Congressional this year. There was just enough rain last weekend to keep the greens and fairways soft enough for the pros to pick it apart. The USGA wanted hard and fast, but the opposite happened.
As a faithful viewer of major golf championships I like to see close, competitive tournaments. I also tend to like players from the USA to win. There was nothing close about this tournament as McIlroy led throughout and by large margins. He entered Sunday’s final round with an eight shot lead. The viewer in me was at odds.
To get a close tournament on Sunday, and to get an American to win, would require a monumental meltdown by McIlroy on Sunday. Well, we’ve already seen Rory have a meltdown, and it wasn’t pretty. McIlroy led after three rounds of this year’s Masters, but a final round 80 saw him plummet to 15th place.
There may be some foreign players I wouldn’t mind watching blow an eight shot lead, but McIlroy isn’t one of them. He is just too nice of a guy to wish anything on him but the best, so as Sunday’s play began, I was just hoping that if the tournament did get close, it was because somebody was going very low, and not another collapse by the affable Irishman.
What happens with McIlroy from here is anyone’s guess. Can he dominate the next decade like Woods did the last decade? He certainly looks like he can, but we may not get to see that much of him in the United States. He currently is not willing to commit to play more than 10 to 12 events on this side of the Atlantic. It will be interesting to see how that plays out when some sponsors with deep pockets want him in their tournaments.
We will also have to wait a few years before making real comparisons to Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Two years ago Woods looked like a lock to break Nicklaus’ records, now no one is really very optimistic that Woods can shake his slump. The injury bug and other factors may have derailed the Tiger Woods express. McIlroy was so much better than the field last weekend it would be hard to bet against him getting into the Woods-Nicklaus conversation.