A Good Bet

Gerry McIlroy and a few of his blokes plunked down a 200 pound wager ($340) when Rory was 15 with a British betting house that he would win the Open Championship and be designated Champion Golfer of the Year within 10 years. Rory waited until the last minute but finally delivered by winning the championship and the 500 to 1 odds payout of 100,000 pounds ($171,000) for his father and friends. Just one more reason to drink some champagne from that Claret Jug.

Jason Gay’s entertaining lampoon article on this in today’s Wall Street Journal is a real smile.

Little doubt that Gerry’s intuition about Rory’s potential was right. Once he won the U.S. Open at Congressional by 8 furlongs at age 21 he had to feel pretty good about it. The similar runaway win of the 2012 PGA at Kiawah Island seemed like the next natural step
in this prodigy’s progression.

Yes young man that is your name on the bottom of the Claret Jug

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His unwavering performance with the lead all week, winning this one wire-to-wire against a very strong field playing well, was reiterative of his past Major triumphs. He is the third youngest person to win three Majors by age 25 and that is behind the rare company of two of the greatest ever, Jack and Tiger. His 11 PGA and European Tour wins by age 25 has him light years ahead of the rest of the class of mid-twenty something stars-to-be.

In spite of the media’s temptation to categorize him as the next dominate player it seems unlikely that Rory will ever fill this mold. Jack and Tiger had as many second and thirds in the Majors as firsts.  Except for a couple of thirds Rory is either a winner or tied for 26th or worse in most of the Majors during his short career. But when he takes command of a Major he is just off the charts dominant, maybe the best front runner in the game today.

He also will never move the needle like Tiger has done throughout his career. Sure plenty of people love him and root for him but he is not that Tiger/Jordan phenomenon that draws the attention of the casual golf fan or even not golf fan every time he shows up for any event.

What he is though is a very competitive, driven natural talent with an endearing personality that makes him a pleasure to root for when he is in the hunt. If you heard his Saturday afternoon interview with Tom Rinaldi after his third round dusting of the field to lead by six shots you heard in his responses honesty we rarely get from a prodigy performer at the top of his game. Quite refreshing to know that you can be focused on winning the big one and not have to look down on the competition to succeed.

Mum this one is for you…….

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In his acceptance speech after he finished the job with a steady hand on the tiller on the way to a two shot win over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler he thanked the R & A, the members of Royal Liverpool Golf Club, and the fans who supported him so graciously through the week. He dedicated the win to his mother Rosie as it was the first time she could be on hand for one of his Major Championship victories.

Class…Rory took the time to thank the competition for the day’s good game

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He found time to acknowledge the quality of the competition of Sergio and Rickie and specifically say how much he enjoyed watching young Rickie play so competitively with the pressure of being in the final group on Sunday. A bit of the Payne Stewart sage advice to a young Phil Mickelson at the 1999 U.S. Open, saying Rickie will have many more chances in the Majors and his time to win is one of these is sooner rather than later.

Rory may never be the dominant competitor that Tiger proved to be the last decade and a half but the game of golf badly needs the combination of competitive flair and approachable personality that he will bring to the sport between now and the time he is 35. Pretty sure you can bet the house on this.

(Click to read Jason Gay’s WSJ article “Rory McIlroy’s Father Knows Best”)

Jason Gay

Wall Street Journal

July, 2014


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