Rory McIlroy’s genius has us all gasping
How appropriate. On Father’s Day, watched on the course by his own dad Gerry, Rory McIlroy completed the mother and father of all major championship performances to win the coveted US Open title in what was more a slaughter of the field than a mere victory.
The young Northern Ireland player’s measured stride towards glory was never in the slightest doubt on the final day at Congressional Country Club.
Indeed, he had done enough in just the first four holes last night to guarantee what followed would be a victory parade, a mere stroll around this beautiful tree-lined course.
McIlroy knew it too. When he sank a monster 15-foot putt to save his par at the 5th, when it looked for all money as though he would at last drop a shot after going into a bunker, he paused to hand his ball to a youngster in the crowd.
The broad smiles on both their faces told you all you needed to know about McIlroy’s psyche and mindset. He acknowledged the roars and shouts from the huge gallery, smiling broadly as he made his way down the fairways and onto the greens.
He had suffered much anguish from defeat in the Masters at Augusta ten weeks ago. But this was as sweet as could be, a complete annihilation of the field and confirmation that his rich promise would find fulfilment on golf’s greatest stage, the majors.
McIlroy’s fellow Northern Ireland player Graeme McDowell paid him a handsome tribute, saying “Nothing this kid ever does surprises me. I didn’t get the chance to play with Tiger Woods when he was in his real pomp. But this guy is the best I have ever seen, as simple as that.
“He is great for golf, he is a breath of fresh air for the game. Perhaps we are ready for golf’s next new superstar and maybe Rory is it.”
The 22 year-old wonder kid had been at it from the first hole.
He seized a birdie with the impact of someone slamming a door in his challengers’ faces.
And the way he saved par with a nerveless seven foot putt on the second hole was another dagger to the heart of his would be pursuers.
As others behind him again stumbled, missing important birdie chances, McIlroy showed them how to do it. And in style too.
He followed his birdie at the 1st with a cool putt for par from a tricky seven or eight feet, at the 2nd. A regulation par on three was followed by a brilliant approach iron to the fourth which spun back to within four feet of the hole.
Predictably, McIlroy sank the putt to go to -16.
That gave him a huge 10 stroke lead over his nearest rivals and just about settled the issue, barring some cataclysmic collapse. But the youngster was not in the mood for any Augusta-type final round implosion, making his serene way to his first ever major title with another extraordinary display of calm and composure.
On the notorious 10th, the ordinary club hacker’s worst nightmare, YE Yang, McIlroy’s playing partner went first, firing an iron over the lake to within six feet of the pin. Game on, Rory, even though he was eight shots ahead at that stage.
But if ever you wanted to see the true definition of a champion in the making, McIlroy’s response was surely it. The youngster picked a 6-iron from his bag, accepted the challenge and sent his shot soaring over the water. It bounced and then spun gently back, rolling down the slope towards the green. Wizened, wily writers in the Media Centre had seen it all...or so they thought.
But as McIlroy’s ball trickled closer and closer to the hole, a roar of growing crescendo filled the air inside the vast tent.
The ball stopped merely a foot short of the hole, McIlroy tapped in and although Yang also made birdie, beyond dispute the Fat Lady
had opened her throat, this time for real.
1973 US Open winner Johnny Miller, one of the most flamboyant players of his era, was another to pay tribute to McIlroy, a young man who plays the game with the same spirit and joie de vivre.
“He is so talented, he almost can’t make birdies” he said. “He has played all week like a 22 year old, with no fear. He has made it look like it is easy and fun.
“This could be the opening he needs to propel him to greatness.”
McIlroy had offered a sober, considered verdict after his final day collapse at Augusta.
“I don’t think I was ready, looking back at it” he said. Maybe. But he certainly was ready to embrace the glory of this first major win and he did so with aplomb.
Unusually, the back nine holes of a major was a complete anti-climax, so comprehensive was his mastery. The normal nail biting finish was nowhere to be seen as the new champion strolled home.
He dropped shots on 12 and 17, first paying the price for going into a fairway bunker and then three-putting.
But this was as small an inconvenience as the fairway flies that he occasionally had to wave away.
It goes without saying that this was McIlroy’s — and Northern Ireland’s— greatest golfing day.