Let there be no doubt anymore – Rory McIlroy is back on top of the golf world, and following his dominant victory at the 2014 Open Championship, it doesn’t look like he’ll be leaving that perch again anytime soon.
McIlroy put on an absolute clinic all week at Royal Liverpool. With unusually friendly skies through the first two rounds, the Ulsterman built up a lead that was nearly insurmountable. Then, when he got challenged on the weekend at first by Rickie Fowler, then Sergio Garcia, he kept playing steady, aggressive golf, and didn’t make the mistakes that would have allowed either of the hopefuls to truly chase him down.
The Claret Jug now marks the third leg of a career Grand Slam for the 25-year-old McIlroy, and he looks every bit the dominant force of the game that we expected him to be 18 months ago. Since the start of 2013, McIlroy’s changed sponsors, equipment, management, and yes, relationship statuses, but through it all he has come out on the other side a more mature player, and a more mature man.
What we saw these last few days at Royal Liverpool, as tired and overplayed as the comparison really is, evoked images of Tiger Woods a decade or more earlier. There were virtually no weaknesses in his game. McIlroy drove the ball longer and straighter than the field, hit nearly 70 percent of his greens in regulation, and made long, clutch putts when it counted. There was no stretch of golf this week more convincing than his final three holes on Saturday, when Fowler made a charge up the leaderboard, and McIlroy went three-under on holes 16 through 18 to ensure that nobody would be close to him come Sunday morning.
McIlroy has come through it all, overcoming the pressures and expectations that come along with being so good so young, and triumphed. It’s tough to think of anything he could go through in his career that would be as tough as the last year and a half have been, and now we’ll truly get to see what level McIlroy can take his game to.