Two months ago the world seemed to collapse on golf’s emerging prodigy, Rory McIlroy. The 22-year old folded under the pressure of a final-day lead to shoot a horrific 80.
Leading by four shots at the start of the day, he would finish the Masters 10 shots back. It was a colossal choke job. He received words of consolation from just about everyone, most telling him that one day his time would come, but actually believing it might take years for McIlroy to psychologically overcome a loss like that.
But Sunday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, Rory McIlroy proved convincingly that you don’t always have to suffer for long after dealing with a huge disappointment. Sometimes all one has to do is dig in and work harder. Which is just what he did, fashioning perhaps the most dominating performance ever witnessed at the U.S. Open. He won by eight strokes, finishing a record 16-under par.
For years it seems golf has searched for someone to challenge Tiger Woods or even mirror him in greatness, a man who could transform the game the way Tiger did when he won his first major 14 years ago.
It now appears Rory McIlroy may well be that golfer. His start-to-finish destruction of the field at the U.S. Open may in fact set him on that path.
McIlroy started Sunday with a huge eight-shot lead, and it seemed the only drama might be to see how much he would win by, or whether he might have another monumental collapse. But this time McIlroy easily managed the pressure. Interviewed by NBC’s Bob Costas after the tournament, McIlroy said, “Augusta was a very valuable experience. I knew what I had to do to win.”
Golf has suffered greatly as Tiger Woods has struggled with injuries and controversy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The TV ratings have bottomed out without the lure of a healthy and competitive Tiger. And try as he might, 40-year-old Phil Mickelson has not been able to fill the gap.
But winning like this, McIlroy did something not even Tiger Woods had done—and he did it spectacularly. No one could’ve predicted such a redemption for the Irish youngster, but it is a tremendous gift for a game that has struggled mightily to find a new star. Today, at least, Rory McIlroy is that star.
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