Stagger to a sofa. Let the kids make their own breakfast. Sneak a cell phone into church. Whatever you're doing Sunday morning, make sure you watch the Open Championship. You're about to see sports history.
Rory McIlroy is just 25 years old, but he's about to carve his name alongside golf's immortals. For a sport as history-obsessed and backwards-facing as golf, this is no small thing. McIlroy holds a six-shot lead at the Open Championship, and he's playing with the kind of assurance that's already earned him a U.S. Open and a PGA Championship. If he's able to win on Sunday, he'll join two familiar names, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, as the only golfers since 1934 with three major wins by the age of 25.
McIlroy is 16-under for the Open Championship, six strokes ahead of his nearest competition. He's at a total of 200 strokes, which sets a record for the Royal Liverpool club. And he's within range of a 20-under for a major, which has never been done in golf history, anywhere.
Here's what stands between McIlroy and that third major: 18 holes. A cast of characters already pretty far back in the rear-view mirror. And McIlroy himself.
Admittedly, McIlroy has had his own problems. Most weeks, he's as erratic as they come, making both brilliant and misguided decisions in every round. He's far closer to Phil Mickelson than Woods, his greatness rearing up out of nowhere rather than being a constant threat. But when he's on, he's driving and approaching and putting with a confidence that gives him a well-earned strut.
And that is enough to keep everyone behind him anxious, nervous and pressing. Rickie Fowler, who will be playing in his second straight final pairing at a major, is six strokes back. Sergio Garcia, who might just be playing the best he's ever done in a major, is seven back. And on and on. It'll require both a pinwheel from McIlroy and a champion effort from anyone else to change this major's expected outcome.
Because, of course, that's the other way McIlroy could make history, too. No one has ever held a six-shot lead at the Open Championship going into Sunday and failed to win the Open. Jean van de Velde, who melted down so memorably in 1999, had a five-shot lead. Adam Scott, who seemed ready to dominate in 2012, was up by four shots before floundering down the stretch. So if McIlroy can't bring it home on Sunday, he'll have made history of a different sort.
Still, even if he does a faceplant for the ages, it'd be unwise to bet against him for long. Recall McIlroy's most famous meltdown, in Augusta in 2011? He gave away the Masters with one bad hole starting the back nine on Sunday. In the very next major he played, he throttled the U.S. Open field at Congressional.
The odds are very good — 1/10, according to current betting lines — that McIlroy will win his third major on Sunday. Tune in. You're seeing history being made.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rory McIlroy