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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 U.S. Open

Winner: Rory McIlroy

Around the wider world of golf:
Not much was happening besides the U.S. Open this weekend. Ji-Hee Lee won the Nichirei Ladies on the JLPGA, and Diana Luna won the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open on the LET. You can read about Lee's victory at Mostly Harmless.

Rory hugs his dad
The photo came from this article in the UK's Telegraph.

Any similarities between Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup and Rory McIlroy at the Masters are purely history now. Maybe McAvoy couldn't finish a U.S. Open, but McIlroy proved he can.

OK, I'll spare you all the details about broken records... you've probably heard them a thousand times already. I'll just add that Rory's 268 total broke the Nicklaus record for low aggregate score in a U.S. Open by 4 strokes. And I'll spare you the speculations comparing Rory to Tiger... or Jack... or Seve. That's not because I'm tired of them, but rather because I plan to discuss how valid they are at a later time.

But this week's tournament has changed the face of golf a bit, and I'll just make a few notes before I drop my customary "dope rhyme."

Jason Day is clearly someone to be reckoned with. In my June RGWR post I said I felt good about his chances, although he hadn't played a U.S. Open before. Although he's only played 4 majors total, he has Top 10s in 3 of them and his last two are a T2 and a solo 2nd. I'll be watching him the rest of the year.

Sergio Garcia is back! No, he didn't compete for the lead (I said earlier I didn't expect him to) but he did post 4 rounds of par or less in a major. Not only that, commentators commented on how happy he seemed to be on the course, and he seemed truly happy that Rory was playing well. If his mind is better, then Sergio is back and we should start watching for some better play from him.

Unlike most of the Americans, both Kevin Chappell and Robert Garrigus showed up. Not only did they post T3s, they earned their way into more majors. Garrigus has already made a quantum jump in his play, but this is the sort of thing that can really kickstart a career. Way to go, boys!

The RGWR got shaken up badly this week. Play in the majors has clearly become something to be weighted more heavily, and the big names didn't play all that well. Westwood remains on top because he's played well recently (2 wins), rallied for a T3, and moved up close to #1 in the OWGR; Donald dropped out of the Top 5 because he played too poorly (if you can't even hit wet fairways, how can you remain near the top?); and Kaymer remained in 2nd place only because he had a major and 3 other wins coming in (an MC and T39 in the first 2 majors is baaaad). Schwartzel and Oosthuizen re-entered the Top 5 because they both have majors, recent wins, and they showed up with T9s. And Rory entered the rankings because he's played well lately and, but for a dozen strokes lost largely due to inexperience, he could have had all 4 majors.

Finally, I'd like to weigh in on something that seems to have perplexed all the commentators: Why have American crowds embraced Rory so quickly?

It's been suggested that America loves a comeback story and that Rory's just a good kid. Both certainly play a part, But I think it's that we also need a golf hero to root for, and Tiger let us down. It seemed that Tiger never failed, and we could all imagine that he was everything we wanted to be... until we found out that he was just as flawed as the rest of us. Suddenly he wasn't so attractive anymore.

And then Rory came along and failed. And failed again. And failed yet again. But unlike Tiger's failure, Rory's wasn't a moral one. Instead, it was a "Rocky" story all over again. America embraces that kind of story. And when Rory was asked if he would be playing here more since he won, he smiled and said "I guess I'll have to."

It was as if Rory embraced America right back... something we never felt that Tiger did.

I don't think you have to look much farther than that. When we look at Rory, we see what we'd like to be.

Can he live up to that image? Can he keep winning like Rocky? Can he just remain the approachable young man who won America's heart and trophy? This week's Limerick Summary ponders this question:
Forget coughing leads up like McAvoy;
The new Open hero is McIlroy!
On both course and Twitter
He's more gold than glitter—
We'll find out soon if he's the real McCoy.

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