Article written for the Sports Section of The Student Journals – 19/08/14
Rory McIlroy has vindicated talk of a new era in golf after winning back-to-back major victories at the Open Championship and USPGA Championship. His win in the final major of the year capped off an incredible run of form; usurping Adam Scott at the top of the World Rankings in the process. Not since Tiger Woods was at his peak have we seen the kind of dominance he has displayed over the past three months.
In both majors he had to hold off the world’s best whilst leading into the final round. The likes of Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were unable to topple McIlroy. When he is on form there are few players, if any, who can match him. However, in the past some have questioned that when things aren’t quite going his way, he folds too easily. Yet, in the final major of the year he showed a gritty determination and nerve to battle to his first USPGA Championship despite not being at his very best. He had witnessed his 3-shot lead disappear during a tense final round but was able to bounce back and on the back-9 came up with something special when he needed it most.
McIlroy has always been touted as a major champion since he burst onto the golfing scene, but after claiming his fourth major title at the age of only 25, he may well be the one to mount a serious challenge to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. At the same point in Nicklaus’ career he had won 5 majors, whilst Tiger Woods had won 6 majors.
Perhaps it is too early to talk of Nicklaus’ major record; at one stage it looked almost inevitable that Woods would break the record. However, at times it seems like McIlroy is playing a different game to everyone else. Despite not being one of the tallest players on the tour, he is able to hit the ball incredible distances. In his last three tournament victories he led the driving distance ranking. He is able to land the ball softly even with the longest of clubs due to his high ball flight, and thus has an advantage over many of his competitors before he even steps on the tee.
After his Open Championship win this summer, the Northern Irishman was keen to downplay talk of a new “Rory era” of individual dominance in the sport. However, his brilliant win at the USPGA Championship – his third tournament win in a row – has signalled that the “Rory era” has indeed arrived. His sights will now be firmly be set on capturing his first green jacket next April at the Masters, which would complete the “career Grand Slam” and put him amongst an illustrious group of players that have won all four of golf’s majors.
For now it looks like McIlroy is set to fill the void left by Tiger Woods at the head of the game. After a season plagued by injury, some have written off Woods, questioning whether he will ever get back to his best. However, it is important to remember that the American has only had one injury-free season since 2009. Rather than question whether he can get his golf game back to its best, perhaps a more prudent question to ask is whether his body will allow him to compete in the coming years.
If Woods can find a way to remain injury free and get back to his best then we could be set for a sporting rivalry that could take the sport to a whole new level. For now though, Rory McIlroy is flying high and looks set to be at the peak of the sport for years to come. He will now look to help Europe retain next month’s Ryder Cup to cap off an incredible year in style.