Major Man McIlroy

Aug 20 2012

Posted in Golf News, Martin Vousden by GoKart

Oh we of little faith. Just because the young pup from Northern Ireland had a few lean months earlier this summer, and is involved in a high-profile romance with Caroline Wozniacki that seems to have him jetting all over the place to hold hands, some commentators postulated that last year’s US Open win may have been a flash-in-the-pan. But what he demonstrated above all else at Kiawah Island is that, not only is he the man for the big occasion but that when he runs hot there is no-one – not Tiger, or Phil, or Lee, or Luke – who can touch him. In particular, when he gets into the kind of form he showed a week ago he never seems to miss with the two most important clubs in his bag, the driver and putter. On a difficult course, with a tricky breeze blowing, he demolished a quality field with a display of driving that was superb in being both long and straight, and then backed it up on the greens by seeming to hole everything he looked at. Such total mastery of game and mentality has not been since Tiger was at his 2000 peak, and doesn’t that seem an eternity away? To shoot a joint best-of-the-day 66 in the final round of a major is the stuff of true champions.

But I wouldn’t be quite as quick as some to anoint him as the man most likely to overhaul that Jack Nicklaus record of 18 wins in majors, even though he has captured the first two at a younger age than either Jack or Eldrick. Tiger was born, groomed, prepared and programmed to be a champion golfer from the moment the midwife slapped his backside (and if it had been at all possible, his father Earl would have taught him the Vardon grip when he was still in the womb). From as young as he can remember Tiger has had a golf club in his hands and an absolutely obsessional goal to be the best there has ever been. He might still make it but the clock is beginning to work against him. He cites Jack as winning his 18th at the age of 46 and concludes that he therefore has another 10 years, or 40 chances, to match or overhaul the record. But that final Nicklaus fling in the 1986 Masters came after six lean years and was an age-related aberration unlikely to be repeated, especially as young players today seem able to win almost as soon as they turn pro. By contrast with Tiger, McIlroy seems still, even after two runaway major wins, to be both grounded and rounded, to retain the common touch and have a healthy sense of perspective. The day after he lifted that ugly Wanamaker trophy he batted away questions about becoming the best ever by saying: ‘I’m not trying to emulate anyone or match anyone.’ And he then caught a plane, not to jet off to another tournament but to be re-united with his squeeze. Good for him.

Desperate measures?
One other bit of Kiawah news is that, after missing the cut, Lee Westwood parted company with his long-standing coach, Pete Cowen, while his caddy and friend Billy Foster remains out of action due to a knee injury, and may be replaced permanently. Lee’s long game continues to be unsurpassed (over the first two days of the PGA Championship he led the tee-to-green statistics) but poor chipping and putting remain an Achilles heel. And, although he continues to insist that he doesn’t fret about the absence of a major, this decision to break from one, if not two of his most trusted compadres suggests otherwise.

Close but no coconut
Sergio Garcia who has, of course, famously never won a major, now holds the record among current players for the most consecutive starts in them. He stands at 54, which represents thirteen-and-a-half years of misery.

Mission Impossible
You probably heard a couple of weeks ago (although it was drowned somewhat by our collective Olympics hysteria) that NASA managed to land a rover vehicle on Mars, at a cost of £1.6 billion. If you have ever wondered why it cost so much, the explanation may come from one of the scientists involved. He said that the parent craft had to travel through a window in the planet’s upper atmosphere measuring just 1.8 metres by 7.4m. He added that this was the equivalent of hitting a ball from Los Angeles to Scotland and scoring a hole-in-one.

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