History in the Making

When Rory McIlroy won (and actually ran away with) the 2011 U.S. Open, he didn't just redefine the path of his own career — he redefined the Tiger-less landscape of golf. His record-shattering performance may have been the beautiful beginning to a brilliant career, and taken the bulk of the attention off of injured head case Tiger Woods. That's why the 22-year-old McIlroy didn't just win a victory for himself (and his father) — he won one for all of golf.

When a 22-year-old kid beats — nay, slaughters — the best golfers in the world, it's hard not to take notice. When it's the same guy that blew a lead in the final round of the Masters only two months prior, yet exhibited grace and sportsmanship beyond that of his older and supposedly more mature peers, it's impossible not to stand and applaud.

That's why I'm sitting here, still two weeks before the British Open, focusing almost none of my attention on either Tiger or the field that's competing in the AT&T National. Instead, I'm eagerly waiting to see what Rory McIlroy will do in the British Open. For the first time in a long time, somebody without the last name Woods has single-handedly made golf exciting again — and made it worth talking about before Sundays.

A game that is often called a gentlemen's game finally has a leading athlete that actually exhibits the class and demeanor of an at least loosely defined gentlemen. I'm not talking about a suit and tie, shaken-not-stirred gentlemen — I'm just saying the guy doesn't beat the crap out of his driver after a bad tee-shot, or single-handedly give overtime pay to network censors.

So let's not pretend, like some naysayers, that McIlroy can't be as important to the sport as Tiger was because he's not good enough. Even if he wasn't good enough to eventually be that dominant (and he is by the way) that's not the only reason he matters to golf. It's a combination of that skill and his aforementioned composure both on and off the course that make it plainly obvious just how big a deal Rory McIlroy can be when all is said and done.

It's the fact that there now exists the possibility that in a few years, a father introducing his son to a game he loves can point at the TV and not only say "that's what a good swing looks like," but also say "that's' how you lose with grace," and be talking about the same person in both instances. Even though there exist other golfers of whom both statements could be said at times, none have the same ability as McIlroy to reach a younger generation — none have the same ability to make golf matter again to the potential golfers of the future.

So next Thursday, don't just tune in to see one of four majors, to see an update on Tiger, or even just to remind yourself of great times in the history of golf. Tune in to see the future of golf, and history in the making — tune in to see Rory McIlroy.

Comments and Conversation

July 10, 2011

Jonathan Lowe:

I’ve gone back and forth with whether I wanted to comment on the article. Personally, I do enjoy Tiger and hope he does get to come back and compete on a healthy level. Others aren’t so enamored with Eldrick, and I understand that completely.

Where I’ve got to disagree is in the level of impact. If McIlroy goes on to win a multitude of Majors, then I do agree that the interest in watching golf should stay high. But even if Rory takes over the mantle of Greatest golfer ever, I don’t believe he’ll have a whole lot of impact on the overall game. On future golfers? Debatable. But on the game itself, I don’t think so.

In my mind, there are three players that are on the highest tier of impact to the game of golf over the last 100 years…Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods. Jones for his famed Grand Slam that started to get people to notice in the 1930s, his creation of the Masters, and his contributions outside of the game. Palmer for bringing the game to the masses as the “Everyman” champion. And Woods for being the inspiration that minorities in particular look at as their reason for getting taking up the game.

I do agree that Rory will win multiple Majors and getting the pressure off early will help. But as far as impact is concerned…just don’t see it there. Again, just my opinion.

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