Rory McIlroy captured the first major title of his young career on Sunday at Congressional, and the way he won was where the real story lies.
Everyone remembered McIlroy as the one who completely collapsed at Augusta by shooting a final round of 80. He led heading into Sunday, but he could never find his swing and quickly fell down the leaderboard. He was the subject of the media leading up to the U.S. Open, and he knew he had to respond with a strong performance.
I think setting records en route to winning the U.S. Open at the age of 22 accomplished that goal.
Through 26 holes, Rory was already at 10-under (a U.S. Open record) after an eagle on the par four 8th. He hit in in from the fairway, and this was about the time where everyone knew he was on his way to something special. He finished the second day at 11-under, which could have been 13-under had he not double bogeyed the 18th hole.
Heading into Sunday, Rory was 14-under par with an eight shot lead over the next closest golfer, Y.E. Yang. This is a very commanding lead for any golfer, but many were still skeptical about whether Rory could hold the lead.
McIlroy started the day with a birdie and finished the front nine two under par for the day. This put him at 16-under par for the tournament, which is where he would finish the day. His final score of 268 was a U.S. Open record. He set another record when he reached 17-under par, which is the record for lowest score at any point in U.S. Open history.
The last time a player won with such dominance, the trophy read: Tiger Woods. His 15-shot win in 2000 proved his dominance over the rest of the golfing world. Now that Tiger is out of competition for the foreseeable future, if he even returns to anything resembling his old form, a player like Rory McIlroy has a chance to dominate as Tiger once did.
Rory McIlroy winning the U.S. Open shows how the face of golf is shifting from guys like Tiger and Phil Mickelson to guys like McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, among others. Guys like Phil will continue to win tournaments, but the younger generation will begin to dominate. The top ten for the U.S. Open was the following:
- Rory McIlroy – 22 years old
- Jason Day – 23 years old
- Robert Garrigus – 33 years old
- Kevin Chappell – 24 years old
- Lee Westwood – 38 years old
- Y.E. Yang – 39 years old
- Peter Hanson – 33 years old
- Sergio Garcia – 31 years old
- Charl Schwartzel – 26 years old
- Louis Oosthuizen – 28 years old
Five of the those players are under the age of 30, including this year’s Masters champ Charl Schwartzel. Other young players such as Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson had great tournaments as well.
Fans not recognizing some of these names – yet – is a good thing for the game of golf. New stars need to come and take over the game, just as Tiger did when he won the Masters in 1997.
The youth movement in golf will continue to progress as the years go on. It will be interesting to see if Tiger can come back to the Tour and take back his reign as #1 from the younger, competitive field.
For now, enjoy this video of golf’s only boy band “Golf Boys” hit single “Oh Oh Oh”. It stars Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan,and Bubba Watson.
* – Rory McIlroy photo source: NBCSports.com