Rory McIlroy, long touted as the next big thing in Golf, already the owner of two of golf’s Major Championships and the world number one ranking, completed his transformation to fully fledged superstar over the course of four days at Royal Liverpool where he added The Open Championship to his growing trophy collection. For those wondering it is The Open, and not the British Open. It may be played on the traditional links courses of the British coastline, but this is a truly global competition, with qualifying events all over the world. It is of course the only major played outside the United States, but the Claret Jug is a trophy all the players want to win.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, the challenges of the British Links courses and perhaps more importantly the British weather should not have caused too much concern for young McIlroy, a player who showed so much promise as a youngster that his father and three friends felt comfortable putting a £400 wager on Rory McIlroy winning The Open before he turned 26. Bookmakers gave them odds of 500-1 for that by the way, so after sinking the winning putt McIlroy had won them £200,00. Recent Opens have not gone McIlroy’s way however, and he was heard to comment about how he didn’t like the courses and/or the wind. The sort of comment/excuse you would hear from many youngsters, and at times we are all guilty of forgetting how young he was.
He has of course been in the public eye for things not directly down to his performance on the course, a high profile relationship (that recently ended) with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki helped Rory McIlroy find the occasional front page and celebrity gossip page as well as the Back page. There was also the small matter of the multi-million dollar move in equipment manufacture to Nike. A move that saw several advertising campaigns alongside Nike’s other golfing superstar, Tiger Woods. The change to Nike, coincided with what up to then can only be called a dramatic loss of form, many experts blaming the new clubs for his troubles, as Rory went from the clear number 1 to struggling to be in the top 10.
Going into Royal Liverpool there were signs that Rory McIlroy was more comfortable in his own skin, but nothing to suggest he was back in Major winning form, as he didn’t seem able to put 4 rounds together. However, when many players followed Tiger’s 2006 approach and took Irons or fairway metal off the tee, McIlroy took out the driver and for the most part hit it straight and true and overpowered the course. Pressure was applied of course by Dustin Johnson, Ricky Fowler and (the man now surely the best not to win a Major), Sergio Garcia, a couple of times McIlroy was pulled backed into a share of the lead, only to pull away again. Considering his first 2 Majors were won by 8 shots, to win one in slightly tougher circumstances will be pleasing to Rory and shows that the mental strength is back.
From his personal viewpoint if Rory can now go ahead and slay the Augusta demons after that back 9 a few years ago, he will be one of a select few to have completed a career grand slam, and there will not be many out there, now he has shown he can win again, who will doubt he will achieve that. Another man pleased with Rory’s return to form, will be fellow Irishman and European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley, who will love to have an on song McIlroy in his team this September and not many Americans will relish taking on Rory with home crowd support at Gleneagles. At the last Ryder Cup in Chicago (Medinah) it was pointed out by European fans to their American friends, you may have the Big Mac, we have Little Mc. Those same fans will be delighted to see Rory back and winning before this years competition.
At 25 years old, it may not be fair to say the boy has become a man, but Rory McIlroy has come out the other side of several problems that youngsters go through and some problems that only the exceptionally talented will go through, he is back on top of the Golfing mountain, 3/4 way to the career grand slam, and destined to once again be the number 1. Move aside Mr Woods, there can be no doubt, Rory McIlroy has grown up and he is back for your crown.
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