Hello World, Rory McIlroy has landed. Nobody that knows golf had any worries about McIlroy following his final round meltdown at this year’s Masters, but nobody expected his coronation to be this severe. McIlroy’s 8-shot victory, the lowest score in relation to par in US Open history, was undoubtedly one of the great performances in the history of golf. That said, I do feel that everybody is far too eager to crown the heir-apparent to Tiger Woods – and frankly folks, this victory does not hold a candle to Tiger’s win at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach. Rory won by 8 shots, Tiger won by 15 – how soon we forget.
All of that said, let’s make one thing very clear – while golf is now filled with young superstars that can do it all and will undoubtedly compete in many majors, Rory is the exception. America delighted at Anthony Kim following his performance in the last Ryder Cup. A flawless swing, and a fierce competitor. Dustin Johnson has a scary long game coupled with a deft touch and stroke, as evidenced by his near misses in majors. Martin Kaymer is near robotic when he’s on. All of that said, Rory’s got them all beat. He is golf’s next superstar, and I have no hesitation in saying that he will win numerous majors. I see Rory as the next Mickelson, the next Els, the next Duval. But you can’t call this kid the next Tiger. You really can’t call anybody the next Tiger.
I’d argue that more than any other sport, golf’s majors flush out the pretenders and bring out the best in the top players. While relative unknowns frequently step up in the Superbowl or in the NBA Finals, the major venues are set up so difficulty that they almost always bring out the cream of the crop. McIlroy has been in serious contention in 4 straight majors, and has led after 7 of 8 major tournament rounds so far this year. He’s scary long, scary straight, scary accurate, a good putter, and seems to have a nice level head on him. I don’t see in him the ultimate competitor I see in Tiger or the can’t miss in the clutch factor, but I see a mentally sharp player with an incredible amount of talent and confidence. His swing is near flawless – the only part of his game that I can question is ironically enough the most important part – the short game – but that’s only because I haven’t yet seen it. The guy hits nearly every green in regulation, so he typically doesn’t need to scramble a lot. He is almost the anti Seve Ballesteros. And too his critics that cited his record setting performance to an “easy” setup of the course at Congressional, of all the best players in the world only 20 were able to break par in the tournament. While that’s a large number by US Open standards, these guys come into every major tournament with their games as tuned-up as can be. And Rory beat the next best player by 2 shots; every single day. That’s all that needs to be said.
Best of all, Rory seems like a a nice kid who will be good for the game of golf. Now please Golf Gods, get me a healthy Tiger Woods. A Woods-McIlroy rivalry is exactly what golf needs – and like Tiger, McIlroy sets himself apart from others by having that 6th gear to really go low on the most difficult courses (see starting this year’s Open 65-66). In other words, he’s one of few players whose game could truly push Tiger to another level once he returns to form.
What a performance.