If there's one thing Rory McIlroy has learned to do in major championships with his eyes closed, it's get out fast and post a low number on Thursday. He posted an opening-round 63 at last year's British Open, followed it up with a 65 at the 2011 Masters, and on Thursday at Congressional he posted a 6-under 65 to grab a three-shot lead after round one.
Given McIlroy's recent record in major championships, you'd be inclined not to get too excited about one round of golf. All three of his brilliant Thursdays were followed by some unsightly numbers on the weekend, including his implosion at the Masters that saw him post 80 on Sunday and fall completely out of the tournament.
So be a pessimist if you want. But even if you don't believe this is the start of a memorable week, know this: McIlroy showed us something on Thursday with a flawless round of golf that didn't include a single bogey. He posted the largest opening-round lead in 35 years, and showed us that he's well on his way to forgetting about Augusta.
There are a lot of things to love about McIlroy's game, one of which is his front-runner mentality that always seems to have him roaring to the top of the leaderboard early in the week. But unlike most of the major winners that have come before him, McIlroy still doesn't have the finishing part down.
A perfect round didn't wipe away the pain of Sunday at the Masters, but it did go a long way toward proving the 22-year-old has what it takes to contend at a young age.
He's continuing to grow -- his trip to Haiti is proof of that -- on and off the course, and like most most twenty-somethings, he'll continue to mature every time he puts himself in a position to win. He's got a major championship worthy game, but he's still learning how to put all the pieces together and finish the job.
It's just one round, but based on the maturity and composure McIlroy displayed on Thursday, there are indications that make you believe if he gets a lead on Sunday at a major this time around, he may very well hold onto it.
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