In a sport that is begging for a new young hero Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlRoy (by way of Holywood, Ulster) gave the golf world a huge glimmer of hope Sunday. One of the most heralded players of recent times kicked off his tally of PGA Tour wins with an explosive win at the Quail Hollow Championship.
Rory’s star shone so bright on Sunday that Tiger Woods’ missed cut was a mere afterthought. You could almost hear Commissioner Finchem’s sigh of relief, knowing that their just might be other players to carry the PGA Tour burden into the coming years.
With a leaderboard fairly clogged up at the time McIlroy burst out of the pack in the middle of the final nine. A birdie on the 14th hole vaulted him ahead while an eagle on the following hole gave him the margin he would need in case of a stumble.
In becoming the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 1996, the 20 year-old (two days shy of 21) was received VERY warmly in Charlotte. He was met by deafening cheers on the 18th at Quail Hollow Golf Club as the fans stood in salute. His final hole birdie to shoot 30 on the incoming nine created a cheer that might have been heard two states over.
In closing with a 62, McIlroy set a course record and left nothing but crumbs for the third round leaders trailing two holes behind. Even so, many of the players would tell you they were nothing but elated to see Rory break out in the way he did. Just witness the fact that Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, and Bubba Watson were all waiting by the clubhouse to congratulate him. Not to mention the many caddies, all who have grown to respect the affable young man with loads of talent, personality, and a huge respect for the game.
Since turning pro at the age of 18 McIlroy has lived up to the promise he showed as amateur. Taking up the game at the age of two, getting his first ace at the age of nine, and ultimately winning the European Amateur (among other significant titles) at the age of 17. His first professional title at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 proved he was the real thing; his win Sunday simply cemented it in the eyes of many who look to the PGA Tour as the ultimate barometer.
The weight of the win was not lost on Rory who had made the cut just on the number. “To get my first win in the U.S. is very special and to do it on a golf course like this is unbelievable,” he said afterward. As for shooting 16 under par on the weekend at Quail Hollow, on a course set-up very often compared to a major, he said what anyone might expect of a 20 year-old, “it’s just ridiculous.”
“I got my nose in front and just wanted to stay there,” he added. He certainly did that by closing with six straight threes, five under par on the closing six holes. Phil Mickelson needed a birdie on the 18th to reach 11 under par to earn second place alone. It was still four strokes and a world back of McIlroy’s winning total of15 under par.
“It was just one of those days when everything went right,” stated the new PGA Tour winner.
Mickelson agreed. “For him to shoot 30 on the back nine is incredible. He is such a fine young talented player. It’s a great win.”
As for The Players Championship this coming week McIlroy says he will take a couple days to wrap his head around this win and then get himself focused.
He will need to – in 11 starts on the PGA Tour in 2009 McIlroy missed just one cut. At, you guessed it, The Players Championship.
Something tells me that might not be the case this year, and either way you can be sure there will a lot more eyes watching with a new appreciation for the talents of Rory McIlroy.