Rory McIlroy has talent that comes along once in a golfing generation. His score of 131 through the first two days is a new US Open record. His lead of six strokes after two rounds is a record, and he became the first player to reach 13-under par at ANY point in a US Open.
This is the fourth consecutive major championship in which McIlroy has contended. In the 2010 British Open, he was the first-round leader, shooting 63. Had he not played the second round in 40 mph winds (where he shot 80), he could have won.
He finished one stroke out of the playoff at the 2010 PGA Championship. Nearly everyone remembers his 80 after leading on Sunday of this year's Masters.
Other great golfers have collapsed in majors prior to their first win. Ben Hogan lost the Masters in 1942 when he led Byron Nelson by three strokes after five holes in an 18-hole playoff. In the 1946 Masters, Hogan three-putted the 72nd hole to lose by a stroke. Jack Nicklaus made three bogeys on the back nine in the 1960 US Open to lose to Arnold Palmer. Tom Watson shot a final-round 79 and lost the 1974 US Open.
The record-setting performance McIlroy has displayed thus far has left his competitors in awe. Brandt Snedeker and Ian Poulter both compared him to a young Tiger Woods. Martin Kaymer and Snedeker have stated that everyone else is playing for second place.
His peers are amazed and also slightly in disbelief about his capabilities. Woods and Nicklaus both evoked similar feelings in their peers when they burst onto the scene. During Hogan’s prime, people thought he had a “secret” because of his ball-striking prowess.
Countless golfers have choked in major tournaments, but very few have shown the ability that McIlroy has. He is simply too good to expect another collapse. But because of Woods, it is forgotten that other greats had collapses before they won.
The scenario is completely different now than at the Masters. The US Open is not an event where golfers get on runs like Augusta.
McIlroy would have lost the Masters had he shot even par on Sunday. The US Open is entirely in his hands. No other golfer will reach 11-under par. Leading a major is no longer uncharted waters for him.
He is 22 years old, has golfers comparing him to Woods (in his prime) and could have won the last three majors. He has rebounded from the Masters to put on a record-breaking performance. This is the fifth round out of six where he has the lead in a major this year.
I’m not banking on the most talented golfer since Tiger Woods collapsing again.