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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student

sports golf

Golf needs Rory McIlroy, not another Tiger Woods

SPORTS GLF-USOPEN 39 MCT

Rory McIlroy arrived at Congressional Country Club with the demons from his Masters collapse still lingering.

By the time he strutted to the 72nd hole, his major championship baggage had been removed and replaced by a new type of pressure.

For many, McIlroy had just become “The next Tiger Woods.”

It’s fun to play the comparison game, but for golf’s sake McIlroy shouldn’t try to emulate anyone. He needs to be himself.

Since Tiger’s precipitous fall from grace, the sport has been in a constant state of flux. Heading into the U.S. Open, 10 different players had won the previous 10 majors.

After his epic performance, it’s safe to say McIlroy has become golf’s “new hope.”

There’s no doubt the 22-year-old wunderkind deserves the distinction. Even though rain helped tame venerable Congressional, Rory was simply on another level.

Sure, his 16-under-par total was a little inflated by the easy conditions — for U.S. Open standards, anyway — but the way he lapped the field was Tiger-esque.

Everyone was fighting for second place, just as they had at Pebble Beach in 2000.

Golf’s rapid paradigm shift was encapsulated by two unforgettable moments at Congressional’s devilish 10th hole, a short par-3 that’s surrounded by trouble.

McIlroy arrived at the 10th tee Thursday — his first hole of major championship golf since his meltdown at Augusta — and hit a beauty, knocking in the subsequent eight-footer.

And then he was off to the races.

By the time he returned to the 10th hole during Sunday’s final round, the tournament had long been decided, but the moment was still poignant.

As McIlroy’s near-perfect tee shot funneled towards the hole, the surrounding crowd held its collective breath. There was an expectation the ball would go in, an anticipation that history was unfolding. 

The Northern Irishman became the second-youngest player to win a major since the Masters began in 1934 — Woods  was the youngest when he won the ’97 Masters at age 21.

You can see why people might want to compare Rory to Tiger. McIlroy even admitted he had Woods on his mind as he was tearing up Congressional, using Tiger’s performance at Pebble as a benchmark.

That needs to be the extent of his Woods impersonation, though. Aside from his well-documented personal problems, Tiger had turned into golf’s version of the Terminator — a Nike-clad robot with a mean power fade. His icy stare was a surefire way of keeping outsiders at a distance.

McIlroy is simply Tiger’s on-course antithesis. The affable, mop-headed youngster plays the game with controlled confidence and a youthful joy. In interviews, he is thoughtful, well-grounded and seems to hold a firm grasp on reality.
 
The sheer dominance displayed in his breakthrough victory will create a different type of spotlight over the next few months.

Let’s hope the kid from Holywood, U.K. doesn’t get too “Hollywood.” If he can maintain his cheery disposition and remain down-to-earth, McIlroy’s potential should be realized. 

His fellow competitors seem to think he’ll be alright, gushing about golf’s new “it” kid all weekend. For a sport that lacked a direction just a week ago, all signs now point to McIlroy.

With the proper hindsight, we’ll be able to tell if McIlroy’s romp amounted to a ripple, or if it was a true sea change.

But for now, if McIlroy can be himself, the game of golf will be in capable hands.

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