Editor’s note: Brian Keogh is a golf correspondent for The Irish Sun and a contributor to The Irish Times, Golf Digest Ireland and other golf publications. The following piece from Brian’s Irish Golf Desk is used with permission.
By Brian Keogh
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
“CELTIC TIGER” RORY MCILROY roared to an incredible eight-shot US Open victory last night to give American golf the hero it badly needs. The 22-year old Holywood idol brushed aside all doubts about his ability to close when he fired a two under 69 to decimate the field with an amazing 16 under par total and smash the US Open scoring record of 272 held by the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
It was a cool, calculated performance by the greatest talent to emerge in the game since Woods, and McIlroy, who broke multiple scoring records in Bethesda and jumped from eighth to world No 4, immediately set his sights on becoming a multiple major champion.
“Just to sit here, knowing that I’ve just won that trophy and following in the footsteps of one of my best friends, Graeme McDowell, last year at Pebble, you know, it’s a great feeling,” McIlroy said. “And I got my first Major Championship out of the way quite early on in my career, especially after what’s happened the last couple of months.
“It feels great. And just looking forward to putting myself in the picture for hopefully many more.”
The hype surrounding McIlroy will increase to unprecedented levels over the coming months as the game looks to him to fill the void left by Woods over the past 18 months. And instead of Woods, Padraig Harrington reckons McIlroy has the talent and enough time to go on and beat Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins.
The Golden Bear himself confessed last night that he is a huge fan of McIlroy’s, explaining: “I love his golf swing and I love his moxie and the way he walks like he is a little cocksure about himself. I think this kid is going to have a great career. I don’t think there is any question about it.
“He’s got all the components and a lot of people rooting for him. He’s a nice kid, he’s humble when he needs to be humble and he’s confident when he needs to be confident.”
Told that McIlroy was four months younger than he was when he won his first major, Nicklaus laughed and said: “Well, he’s ahead of my major pace.”
McIlroy’s win gave Northern Ireland back to back US Open wins, with the defending champion Graeme McDowell confessing: “The probability of two players from Northern Ireland winning back to back US Opens is lottery numbers or bigger than that. It’s just incredible.
“He’s an awesome player. He’s the best player I have ever seen. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger in his pomp but he’s the best I’ve ever seen, simple as that.”
It was a triumphal march from the moment he shook off his first tee jitters with a perfect three-wood down the middle, beamed a huge smile at manager Chubby Chandler and took his first steps towards a place in the history books with an opening birdie that ended the championship as a contest.
After flicking a wedge to just seven feet, the Irish prodigy stroked home the putt to go nine shots clear and set up Ireland’s fifth major win from the last 16 big ones. He got a massive roar from US fans as the putt dropped and is clearly what world and American golf has been crying out for since Woods, out injured, fell from grace and lost his game.
What Golf Needs
Even McIlroy’s new putting coach, two time major winner Dave Stockton, believes that the Ulsterman is now an all-American hero.
Stockton said: “He is what golf totally needs. He will be the sixth non-US winner in the last eight years and I’ve got to tell you that the American people love him so much that they are not going to care.”
McIlroy is also only the seventh wire-to-wire US Open winner in history and the first since Woods did it for the second time at Bethpage in New York in 2002. And with Woods out injured with knee and Achilles’ problems, McIlroy looks set to fill the power vacuum and hoover up the majors.
Harrington certainly believes that McIlroy could turn out to be the man who eventually breaks the Golden Bear’s major records.
Harrington said: “If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack’s record, there’s your man.”
McDowell hit a 69 to finish on two under par and conclude a stout title defence and hand the title to his best pal.
Before his final round, McDowell said: “He’s potentially the next Tiger Woods. He’s that good. It’s great to see him out there fulfilling his potential.
“Will he achieve what Tiger was doing around 2000, 15 major championships to date or whatever he’s got? Can he be that good? Yeah, potentially. He’s got that potential. He’s got the full package as far as his golf game is concerned—if his putter behaves itself.
“Tiger was something very special. He had it all, the mental capacity, the short game, the putter. If Rory can add a couple of weapons to his arsenal, yeah, he can be as good.”
Brian Keogh covers golf for The Irish Sun and contributes to a variety of golf publications. Pay him a visit at Irish Golf Desk.
(Photo: Courtesy of Titleist.com)