Rory McIlroy Must Contend at US Open to Keep Elite Status

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

May 31, 2013; Dublin, OH, USA; Rory McIlroy hits a shot out of the fairway on the 11th hole during the second round of The Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It was at the 2011 U.S. Open that Rory McIlroy emerged as one of the best golfers in the world. Now, he needs to remind fans of that elite status at the 2013 U.S. Open. 

Officially, McIlroy as ranked as the No. 2 golfer in the world, just behind Tiger Woods. There's no doubt that McIlroy has the ability to play that way. He topped the 2012 money list and has two majors to his name. 

At some point, though, he has to live up to the massive expectations he created with his great play, and that's something he hasn't done thus far in 2013. 

Six months into the year, we have yet to see the 24-year-old win a single tournament. While it's harsh to say that wins are the only metric by which he can be measured, he's only been close once—a second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open. 

Other than that, the highlight of his season has been an eighth-place finish at The Players Championship. He finished 25th at the Masters. 

Fair or not, the sport's elite are judged based on their performances in majors. If McIlroy wants to keep his place as one of the best in the world, he needs to be certain that he is elevating his game at the biggest tournaments and not shrinking from the spotlight. 

Coming off a 2012 U.S. Open in which he failed to make the cut, the upcoming U.S. Open will reveal whether McIlroy is ready to challenge for the No. 1 ranking once again. 

According to SportsCenter, McIlory will be paired with Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. 

Woods is obviously the most popular athlete in the sport. Adam Scott is no stranger to the spotlight either, having just won the Masters. This is no doubt the must-watch grouping of the first two days of the tournament. 

The question is whether McIlroy can step up to the competition and show that he belongs in that trio. He's going to be directly competing with them, and everyone will be watching. 

At this point, McIlroy is still considered one of the world's best, albeit inconsistent, golfers. He must go out and prove that he has the consistency and skill to contend for majors on a regular basis.

If he comes up short once again and isn't in the mix throughout the weekend, it's going to be a disappointment that should reflect on his place among the sport's elite.