Saturday, June 18, 2011

Watching Rory Means Watching History

   So, you may be wondering, what's the point of watching the final round of the U.S. Open, seeing as how Rory McIlroy has an eight-stroke lead with 18 holes to play?

   Watch for the history McIlroy is on the verge of making.

   Watch because, after a couple of false starts including the Masters two months ago, McIlroy is ready to deliver the biggest victory of his just-blooming career.

   Watch because he's playing the way Jack and Tiger played in their primes. If that sounds like I'm talking about Woods in the past tense, it feels that way this week and will continue to feel that way until Tiger returns in full form, assuming that eventually happens.

   What McIlroy has given us through three almost make-believe days has been any glowing adjective you choose to apply -- spectacular, extraordinary, remarkable. It would be impressive enough to torch any field by such a wide margin but to do it in the U.S. Open while posting such gaudy numbers is, well, Tiger-esque. Even Tiger never posted 199 through three rounds in the U.S. Open, though he did lead by 10 entering the final round at Pebble Beach in 2000.

   "It's not over yet. I can't speculate on what's going to happen before it happens but he's a tremendous player," Steve Stricker, the world's fourth-ranked golfer, said Saturday.

   "He's got a lot of talent and he's only 22. He's got the world in front of him really. His game looks flawless. His swing looks great. I think it looks just as good as when Tiger was in his prime and swinging at it at his best. You just don't see any flaws."

   At the Masters two months ago, McIlroy carried a four-stroke lead into the final round and it looked for all the azaleas in Georgia as if he would be adding a green jacket to his wardrobe. His lead was gone an hour into the final round and, by the end, so was McIlroy's game.

    But his confidence, the thing you'd think might have taken the most damage, was only dinged -- and only temporarily. There has not been a more confident player at Congressional this week and there's no reason to think anything will change on Sunday.

   That doesn't mean McIlroy won't be nervous despite his eight-shot advantage but he's supposed to be nervous. He's never won a major and even if he wins 10 of them, he'll be nervous on Sunday trying to win his 11th. It's easy to say that Sunday is the biggest day in McIlroy's career and it is. But we said the same thing at the Masters two months ago and if McIlroy is what we think he is -- the game's next great player -- what happened at Augusta National will make it him better today and beyond.

   It's worth watching today -- and for years to come.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like somebody has a new boyfriend!