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It has been several days since Rory McIlroy stunned the world with his record breaking victory at the 2011 US Open at Congressional Country Club. I say surprising not that he won. Rather, they way he blew away the field, ala Tiger in 2000. Far be it from me to analyze his performance or the records he set. As usual I will let that up to the experts who do it for a living every day.
I have to recount a phone conversation I had with my brother just after the Tiger Woods accident in November 2009. Like all other golfers we were discussing the Tiger Slam, errrrrrrr crash and who would benefit from Tigers absence on the Professional Golf scene. He asked me who I thought would benefit the most and I told him Rory McIlroy, while he picked Phil Mickelson. He thought Phil would benefit the most because of the fanfare. Given Phil’s life situation at the time and his connection with the fans he felt Phil had the most to gain.
He wanted to know why I thought Rory McIlroy would benefit the most. First, I told him that I believed that Rory had that something special that you see in very few players. He had that extra gear that most pros do not have and cannot call on at will. We all know what that extra gear looks like as Jack and Tiger have displayed it many times in competition. Very few players can command more from their game at precisely the right moment, under pressure to win golf tournaments. Not to take anything away from the other tour players, it is just there are those special few who can take their game up a notch in majors. In my opinion, Rory is in that category. I am NOT comparing him to Tiger and Jack, all I am saying is that he has the extra gear and we saw it at Congressional.
Second, I felt that with Tiger off the tour for awhile young players like Rory would have the opportunity to grow. They would have the opportunity to win more often, gain confidence and establish themselves as champions. We all remember how intimidating Tiger was in major championships to proven tour players, let along young guys like Rory. Much of winning at the highest level is confidence and a certain swagger. You need to believe in yourself, your game and your ability to win on the back nine of a major.
Finally, I felt that Rory has an incredible golf swing, great short game and flowing putting stroke. Now, one can argue that many players have those same qualities and I would agree to a certain point. The difference is that Rory brings that game to the course just about every time he plays. Most players are “on” any given week in one or two of those three areas but not all three.
So, where does Rory go from here? Only time will tell. I am sure like most major champions he will be burdened with press obligations, hounded by fans, hire a new swing coach, get new equipment and be travel weary for the next year. I hope that does not happen. I hope he comes out at the Open Championship next month, puts himself in a position to win and we get a chance to see that young, great talent compete once again for a major.
With all that talent, much less pressure and tremendous confidence, it is going to be fun to watch Rory the rest of his career.
How do you think Rory will do going forward?