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McIlroy is quickly mastering the art of the W

September 10th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Rory McIlroy’s latest triumph at the BMW Championship has made it clear that he is quickly mastering the art of winning.

”The more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal. And it feels like this is what you’re supposed to do.”

Nicklaus liked to say, “Winning breeds winning,” and McIlroy, who has been mentored by the master himself, evidently is learning this lesson well. But it wasn’t always this way – in fact, the knock on McIlroy by his critics was that he did not win nearly as well as he should, given how often he contended. And they had a point.

At the end of 2010 and the start of 2011, he ran off a streak of high finishes: 5, 6, 5, 4, and 2. But no wins. Then, starting in the 36th week of 2011 through the 10th week of this year, he ran off the following streak: 3t, 3, 2, 2, 4t, W, 11t, 2, 5t, 2, 1, 3.  That’s 11 top 5s in 12 consecutive starts – but only one was a win!

McIlroy’s amazing streak came AFTER his win at the 2011 U.S. Open, one that should have burst the door open for future victories. The problem was that his win at the Open was more of an exhibition than a competition as he won by eight big shots.

So, while McIlroy’s confidence surely grew after winning the U.S. Open, McIlroy, the winner, may have been born in early March at the Honda. Tiger Woods, playing seven groups ahead of McIlroy, shot a closing 62 to post -10. So, it would not be totally unexpected to see McIlroy, who was at -11 after bogeying the 12th, choke his way home to hand the title to Woods. Instead, McIlroy bounced back with a birdie on 13, then parred the final five, including the three holes on the infamous Bear Trap, to win by two.

After a third and a 2t in his next three stats, McIlroy’s concentration shifted to his globetrotting romance with Caroline Wozniacki. A 5t at the WGC Bridgestone a week before the PGA signaled that his mind was returning to the course. Now, five weeks later, his streak of three wins in four starts offers proof that McIlroy’s game has reached a new level. At the PGA, he pulled away from the field on Sunday to win by eight, which was very impressive – but the back nine was, like at the U.S. Open, another victory parade.

The Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championship were different. In each case, McIlroy was in hunt with a bevy of world class players which required that he demonstrate a winner’s knack for closing to secure the Ws. At the Deutsche Bank he beat Woods by two shots, and at the BMW, Woods was three back in a tie for fourth.

So, whose career will McIlroy’s most closely replicate? Will he challenge Nicklaus’ 18? Could he reach double digits in the majors like Woods? Will he become another Watson or Player?  Will Rory’s numbers and accomplishments add up to a body of work that places him within the top 3 or top 5 of the Modern Era?

Who knows? But he is now primed to win again, and again, and we, as fans, are set to enjoy the McIlroy Era as this likeable Northern Irishmen’s career unfolds over the next 15-20 years.

Tags: PGA Tour · The Game · Tiger vs. Jack

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Sep 10, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I don’t think we really know who’s career Rory WANTS to replicate. With Tiger, that was a no-brainer. Does Rory have the will and the determination to challenge for greatest ever? He may reach a point where he’s the best he golfer he thinks he can be and decide (consciously or unconsciously) to relax and make room in his life for other things. Again, with Tiger, you always knew he was out to take on Jack. But I, for one, don’t see the same hunger in Rory’s eyes that I saw in Woods’, or in most of the game’s giants, for that matter. He looks a lot less intense about golf than Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan, or Snead. You could argue he has more of a Byron Nelson/Bobby Jones-type temperament — but that would only clinch the argument for me because both of those guys quit competitive golf in their primes.

  • 2 Phil // Sep 10, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Hi BD – I am not saying who’s career he wants to replicate, just whose career his will most closely resemble when he is done. Rory is cagey. He is not talking about big goals for winning majors – he just wants to keep on winning them one at a time. See what happens. That is smart. If he said his goal was to pass Tiger or Jack, that would add to the already enormous pressure he will be under in the years ahead. So, I don’t think he will reveal his true goal (if he even has one) until he is at least in double digits (if that should happen). And, as you say, he might prefer a more balanced life, perhaps with Caroline, to grinding it out for 15 years. He has seen what that did for Woods, and he may want no part of it.

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