Jul
19
2010
McIlroy’s Up-and-Down Story
By Stephanie Wei under British Open

Had Rory McIlroy just shot even par in that nightmarish second round, he would have tied eventual champion Louis Oosthuizen’s score, which isn’t asking for too much since notwithstanding the 80 last Friday, his worst score at St. Andrews was 69. Even though Rory didn’t win, he still made major championship history. If you’re curious about a meaningless yet interesting stat, I wrote this item for the print version of Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

Playing in extremely calm conditions, Rory McIlroy kicked off the British Open with a record-tying nine-under 63. But his reign atop the leaderboard would be brief as he battled fierce winds the following afternoon and posted an eight-over 80. Although the 17-shot swing was a blemish on his scorecard, it allowed him entrance into a very exclusive club—if not a somewhat dubious one.

Mr. McIlroy bounced back from his nightmarish round and finished with two rounds in the 60s Saturday and Sunday. By doing so, the floppy-haired 21-year-old avoided a score in the 70s altogether. Since 1970, only two other golfers have had such a drastic swing at a major tournament.

While several players have posted four rounds in the 60s, David Canipe in the 1984 U.S. Open and Mike Weir in the 1999 PGA Championship are the only ones to mirror Mr. McIlroy’s feat. Mr. Canipe posted consecutive rounds in the 80s after starting 69 and 69, placing him in a tie for 62nd. Likewise, after having a share of the lead through Saturday, Mr. Weir had a meltdown at Medinah and finished tied for 10th. With his weekend recovery, at least Mr. McIlroy can say he had the best finish of the group.

Curiously enough, in 12 competitive rounds at St. Andrews, Mr. McIlroy has never shot in the 70s. Before the British Open, he had scored eight rounds in the 60s, the worst being 69. Even though he might look back and think what may have been, at least he kept his streak alive.

And yes, it was extremely weird to type the words “Mr. McIlroy.” Rory’s 12 scores at St. Andrews: 69, 69, 67, 68, 67, 68, 65, 69, 63, 80, 69, 69. There’s something to be said for the lone 80 — like Friday’s conditions were (arguably) unfair and he got the wrong side of the draw. But sometimes that’s the way it goes in a British Open and in the words of Rory, “It’s just a pity about Friday.”