In his press conference following victory in the Open at Hoylake, Rory McIlroy stated that he believed golf needed someone to dominate the sport in the near future, and that he hoped he could be that person.
Following his PGA Championship victory, the world is left in no doubt as to Rory’s capability to live up to his ambitions.
McIlroy’s second Major win of the season was, in many ways, his most impressive. This was not a victory by default or one where we witnessed Rory lapping the field and cruising to a win in the final round, but a victory carved out of sheer determination, supreme temperament and an ability to produce the goods when it really mattered.
The leaderboard on Sunday night was as strong as we have seen in a Major championship for a while, yet with the likes of Mickelson, Fowler and Stenson snapping at his heels, McIlroy still managed to secure his fourth career Major.
The images of McIlroy lifting the Wanamaker Trophy in the gloom at Valhalla could not have been more different to those of Tiger Woods agonising over every shot on his way to missing the cut this week. Any fears over a relapse in Woods’ fitness were confirmed in emphatic style as he visibly struggled to make it through two rounds.
Nike’s new poster boy is leading a new generation of players who wear bright colours, bring modern attitudes to the course and have the ability to excite crowds with the way they play. It seems unlikely that Woods will make the US Ryder Cup team this year and hopes of him surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors have all but faded. The once unstoppable force in world golf is battling to salvage a playing career that looks increasingly threatened by injury.
The significance of Rory’s rise while Tiger falls is huge for the game on a global scale. We are entering a period where younger golf fans will not remember Tiger’s exploits in the early 2000s, and as a result have few memories of anyone dominating the sport in the way he did.
At a time where golf is attempting to look to the future with a fresh image, the game needs a figure like McIlroy more than ever before.
Now poised to lead Europe into the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, it will be up to European captain Paul McGinley to ensure that his star player enters the tournament with the right mindset and that we don’t see any repeats of the saga at Medinah when he turned up late to the course on the final day and could have cost Europe the chance of victory.
However, there is a growing sense that since his split with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, this is a new Rory who is embracing being the star of the show on a global scale. Nike’s new poster boy is leading a new generation of players who wear bright colours, bring modern attitudes to the course and have the ability to excite crowds with the way they play.
For the sake of the game, let’s hope that McIlroy’s success continues for many years to come.