Can “The Kid” hold on and win the U.S. Open today in the steamy confines of Congressional Country Club?
Hmm, seems like I was writing this same column a little while ago. Oh yeah, I was, when Rory McIlroy, the bushy-haired lad from Northern Ireland, was in front of the field to start the final round of The Masters in April. Uhh, we all know how that one turned out.
God, I’m hoping McIlroy can bring it to the house today. He’s a whopping eight shots in front of his closest pursuer, Y.E. Yang from South Korea, and more in front of a horde of other contenders. If he fails to win, his collapse will be of epic and historic proportions. Following on the heels of his demise at The Masters, squandering such a seemingly insurmountable lead at the next Major would be unforgiveable to the golf gods. It might be a blow from which McIlroy might never recover.
But he’ll finish this one off. To blow an eight shot lead would be to give almost a half stroke back to Yang and more to the guys behind on every hole today. He simply shoots par and somebody has to throw up a low 60’s round to catch him. Ain’t going to happen.
Someone might bolt out of the pack behind McIlroy and put up a low number simply because Congressional is playing so easy, in fact too easy. A 63 or 64, even with Sunday pin placements and tad faster greens, is not out of the question. McIlroy stumbles to, say, a 74 or 75 and, oh boy.
But the lack of real bite Congressional has been displaying will also serve McIlroy well. He’s swinging the driver well and striping his irons. Fairways and greens will be a mantra that will likely be quite easy to accomplish for the 22-year-old. Shooting an 80 like he did in the fourth round of at The Masters is out of the question.
Without Tiger Woods the U.S. Open has lacked punch. But McIlroy’s amazing 14-under through 54 story has been a good one, and his quest to lift the big trophy this evening will bring people to their television sets.
A couple of other things.
If McIlroy wins it will mark the second straight year that a golfer from Northern Ireland has taken home our greatest national golf prize. Europeans are dominating the Majors, leaving observers to wonder, Where Are the Americans? Only three of the top 10 players entering today’s final round of the Open are from the U.S. Ouch! The U.S. is developing good young players but they either aren’t hungry enough or determined enough to show up in the biggest events on the golf calendar.
Also, maybe it’s time we take Congressional out of consideration for hosting a U.S. Open. I know all about the history of the place and it being so close to our nation’s Capital. But if this is the best USGA’s Open guru Mike Davis can do to toughen the course up, well, maybe it’s time we said goodbye to Congressional CC. You simply can’t have 15 guys under par in what is supposed to be the sternest test of playing ability of the year. Weather conditions have affected the course, kept the rough down somewhat and made the greens more receptive. But Congressional obviously can’t stand up to today’s juiced up clubs and golf balls and highly skilled players, even at its ballyhooed extra length.