July 16, 2011
We've come to expect a lot from Rory McIlroy. Winning a U.S. Open and setting multiple records in process will do that to you. So when fresh-faced 22-year-old stepped onto the tee on Saturday morning just four shots back of the lead, we expected to see something special.
And for 18 holes under blustery conditions, with the rain going sideways at times, we did, as a 22-year-old fired a brilliant round of golf, perfectly flighting shots and making clutch putts. The thing is, that golfer wasn't Rory McIlroy; it was actually his playing partner Rickier Fowler, who put himself in perfect position going into the final round.
McIlroy, on the other hand, couldn't find the major championship magic on Saturday, as he struggled to hit just 8 greens in regulation on the day. When his final putt dropped on the 18th hole, his Open hopes, like the rain that plagued the course for most of the day, were washed away, as he carded a 4-over 74 that all but ended any chance of him winning back-to-back major championships.
Sure, McIlroy won't being playing in the final group, or in contention, at a major for the first time this year, but maybe that's a good thing. For the past couple of weeks, he's been inundated with press requests, and had the weight of the golf world put squarely on his young shoulders.
While there's no doubt he can handle the pressure, we need to remember that he isn't golf's savior, and like the meltdown on Sunday at the Masters, he won't blow us away every time. Sure, he's one the brightest stars in the sport, but like every young golf prodigy, McIlroy is still growing and maturing as a player. Saturday was just another small part of his maturation process.