Sunday, March 4, 2012
Rory Is Finally Crowned
There are moments in golf bigger than major championships. A couple of weeks ago at Riviera, Keegan Bradley stood over a makable birdie putt on the 72nd hole moments after Phil Mickelson, a life-long idol, had drained an improbable birdie of his own to force a playoff with Bill Haas and put Bradley in an uncomfortable position. Make and you one-up Phil. Miss and you let down an entire crowd ready to explode once more.
Bradley eyed the pressure putt with that gnarly stare he has since invented over the course of a year, stood over his putt, and stroked it in the hole for a fist-pumping, Mickelson-congratulating birdie of his own.
At the time I mentioned that if Bradley had won that playoff, doing it in that fashion against that field, it would have been bigger for his career than the PGA Championship. Some might have thought I was crazy, but my point was simple; sometimes things happen and they're great, and sometimes you make things happen and it's better. It's always better to win a golf tournament than for someone else to lose it, right?
The same goes for Rory McIlroy's win on Sunday at the Honda Classic. No, it wasn't as incredible as his final round 62 to win his first PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow or as exclamatory as his eight shot win at the U.S. Open a year ago, but the win might have been bigger than all that.
The reasoning? Because Rory winning meant so many things.
The obvious are there. He became world number one. He did so after Tiger Woods went out and posted his own 62 that at the time put him one shot behind McIlroy (although I think this point will be overblown in the press because Tiger racing up a leaderboard just doesn't have the same effect it used to on players, especially those elite golferes like Rory).
I think it's the smaller things that mean so much to this McIlroy win. He bounced back a week after letting his first World Golf Championship slip from his hands, mostly because he didn't bring his best stuff to the finals. He ended a stretch of incredible golf that dates back to September with a win, and is most likely the favorite next week. He never let the week slip away like he has in the past. He became the biggest story in golf this week solely because he played his way to that point.
Rory's win was a call to the world that this could be "his year," and that unlike a lot of the players that have spent time atop the game, isn't planning on going anywhere.
McIlroy has the game to be the best, we all know that, but it's the drive you need to go from good to great and then great to historic. At just 22, it seems he has finally matched that mind of his with that incredible golf swing.