Monday, 20 June 2011

Redemption And The Birth Of A Golfing Superstar

In this digital age we are lucky that world events are beamed directly into our living rooms 24/7. Sadly these images are sometimes of death and destruction, some through natural disaster and sometimes through mans savagery to fellow man. Last night though I had the chance to sit back and enjoy something truly wonderful. A man coming of age. A man growing up in front of our eyes. A man getting redemption from a sporting tragedy that would have crushed many of his peers.

Rory McIlroy didn't just win the US Open last night. He tore the record books apart and obliterated a star spangled array of the worlds top golfers. The US Open is renowned for being uber tough. Par or just under is usually good enough to win. The course is usually set up with fearsome rough, super fast greens and pin placements sadistically placed to fool rookies and veterans alike. For this 22 year old from Holywood (how fitting is that) in Northern Ireland it didn't make a difference. From day one when he blistered into a lead he played the sort of golf only Tiger Woods in his pomp would dream to match. He was simply awesome. An irresistible force.

I have to be honest there was a nagging doubt in my mind watching him tee off on the first last night. What would happen if he made early mistakes as he had at the Masters in April. Would it all unravel again? It took three shots and an opening birdie to confirm that nothing would be further from the truth. He seemed to relish the chance to banish the ghosts of the 10th hole meltdown he had suffered. Was it just me or did he grow in size as the round progressed?

And what of the US crowds? Usually they are all for the home grown winner and are pretty vocal in their support for "one of their own". However with McIlroy having such a commanding lead and in imperious form wasn't it a joy to see them take him to their hearts and roar him home. I know he has played a lot of golf out on the USPGA Tour but even so, hats off to the fans too.

Already the comparisons with Tiger Woods have begun. Surely a bit early yet. There is even talk of Rory being the one to eclipse the number of major wins held by Jack Nicklaus. Again, hold the phone Dora, that is way off. Without a shadow of doubt this guy has a swing to die for and a fearless attitude of an old fashioned gunslinger. That said it is still only the first major and as many others have shown, including the much missed Seve, getting many more doesn't come easy and doesn't become a given. They have to be earned.

Fortunately he has a great team behind him from Chubby Chandler his manager, through his caddy to his parents who have down such a great job in making sure the young McIlroy has kept his feet on the ground following his meteoric rise since turning pro. However as Graham McDowell found last year, everyone will want a piece of him now. He has truly arrived on the golfing world stage as a true icon of the game. Its newest superstar has been unveiled

It is all these trappings that make me wonder how easy he'll find it to cope in the aftermath. With the next major being the Open at Royal St Georges expectation and media frenzy will be off the scale. This is where his manager will earn his bucks making sure his charge can focus on preparing as well as meeting all the new demands on his time.

However for the armchair viewer wasn't it a sight to behold. A golf course and the top names brought to their knees by the unbridled brilliance of Rory McIlroy. If the 10th hole had been his undoing at Augusta, the shot he played into the treacherous par 3 at Congressional was spell binding. A six iron that cleared the water, landed with a feather like touch and rolled back to within six inches of a hole in one. To be honest it would have been the cherry on the icing on the cake had it gone in. Of course deep down we'd have loved a tight finish but how could you be bored with the way he plotted his way around and refused to play anything but full on golf.

And so the European Tour dominance of the world of golf continues. I'm not sure what European Tour kingpin George O'Grady is putting in the water but they keep churning out the results. All eyes will now turn to Kent for the Open. Whilst I would love to see the McIlroy fairytale continue, I fear he may find the media circus a bit of a strain and can't see back to back major wins. From my comfy spot on the settee I'd love nothing more than Westwood to follow another good performance at Congressional and finally get his own major. If not then there are a dozen or so European players alone that you could make a good case for. Whatever happens I hope we get another brilliant tournament like we've enjoyed this week.

As for McIlroy, I've a feeling the head may be a little delicate this morning but I think we can allow him a wee dram to celebrate.

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