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US Open Golf 2011: Why a Win at Congressional Will Define Rory McIlroy's Career

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIJune 19, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 18:  Y.E. Yang of South Korea waits to putt on the tenth green as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during the third round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 18, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Since April, Rory McIlroy has heard it all. How he had the Masters Championship won and then went into the final round and shot 80 to give the title away. How it was his to win and how the field was at his feet. The 22-year-old Northern Ireland native has answered every question about his colossal collapse.

Now, in the second major championship of the year, McIlroy is in a similar situation—only this time he is a little older, a little more aware of how precious these moments are and in a better position to capture a major title, the U.S. Open at Congressional.

While he is still very young in his professional golf career, a win would be, to quote Jim Nance, “One for the ages.”

While McIlroy still has one day left to capture immortality, it appears more than certain that he will bring home the prestigious title. There will be many competitors—Y.E. Yang, Robert Garrigus and maybe even Lee Westwood—who will try to unnerve him, McIlroy his clubs and running away.

And while Tiger Woods is not in the field, McIlroy is doing all this in Woods-like fashion.

His score of 199 is the best ever for the first three days in tournament history, and he became the first player to reach 13-under par ever—and that includes Player, Nicklaus and Palmer. Woods may have been just as dominant, but the score has never been this good at such an opportune time.

Going into the final round, McIlroy is 14-under par and eight shots ahead of Yang. The closest American is Garrigus in third place, but he is nine shots off the lead.

Golf is a cyclical game. While golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker were being counted on to lead an American charge against McIlroy, Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, the charge never happened and does not appear to be headed that way for Sunday. The game has taken on a much familiar foreign flair, much like the 1980s when Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Nick Price were challenging America’s best.

McIlroy’s win just puts into perspective how dominant the foreign competitors have been. Remember the last time an American has won a major was last year when Mickelson won the Masters. No American golfer has been in the top three in the final scores of the final round of the majors since then.

Sunday appears to be no different.

McIlroy winning is defined more by what he did to the course—which is obliterating it. Yes, the last time this happened was Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000. But McIlroy’s win will be more of what he did do this time, instead of what he did not.

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