Thursday, June 23, 2011
The cover of this week's Sports Illustrated magazine (above) has Rory McIlroy hitting his tee shot on the 10th hole at Congressional last Sunday -- the shot that was nearly an ace -- and proclaims his U.S. Open victory the start of 'Golf's New Era.'
It feels that way.
Nothing against the other first-time major champions in recent years -- Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, et. al -- but McIlroy's victory looked and felt different. It seems like a moment when the professional game turned a corner, stepping out of the Woods-Mickelson era and into what may be McIlroy's era.
That's a great thing.
What happened at Congressional was the best thing to happen to professional golf since Tiger beat Rocco Mediate on a bum leg. McIlroy's performance was something special, establishing him as a mega-star here in the United States. We got a glimpse of his brilliance when he won at Quail Hollow last year but McIlroy's performance at the U.S. Open -- after what had happened at the Masters -- was transformative.
Is this a rush to judgment, anointing McIlroy as Tiger's successor?
Woods will return, no doubt with a new fire to prove he can reclaim the mountain he once stood atop. But now he's forced to deal with McIlroy in the way Jack Nicklaus had to deal with Tom Watson.
Beyond his game, there's a grace about McIlroy that's endearing. It will get tested by the new demands on him -- demands that will likely increase over the next few years if his career unfolds as expected -- but it seems to be a part of him, something that comes as naturally as his golf swing.
After the angst about what happens next to professional golf after what has happened the past two years, the answer arrived last week at the U.S. Open.
That explains the smiles.
Posted by Observer Sports at 10:47 AM