It has been assumed for some time now, among commentators and fans alike, that Rory McIlroy’s transition to the top of the professional game was more a question of time than anything else. The swing, the swagger, the knack for propelling the golf ball vast distances with a nearly superhuman level of accuracy: everything was, is in place. Everything, of course, except the putting.
But, as the young Northerner proved over the course of today’s third round, when you’re hitting the ball as well as anyone ever has around Augusta, who needs to worry about scrambling? Much like the two that preceded it, McIlroy’s third round was defined by fairways and greens hit. The short-game artistry Augusta typically demands of the prospective champion was effectively pushed out of shot, its significance negated by the sheer quality of the youngster’s iron play.
If a few diehards on this side of the pond might even go as far as to lose a little sleep this Saturday night in anticipation of the final round, probably asking themselves many of the same questions they did yesterday— “He can’t keep hitting it like this, surely?”– it’s a problem that McIlroy himself certainly isn’t anticipating:
“Q: How are you going to sleep tonight?
RORY McILROY: I’ll sleep all right. I probably won’t get to bed until later on. There’s a big rugby match on tomorrow. Ulster, my team, are playing Northampton, so I’ll have to get up at about 10:00 to watch that. I haven’t had any trouble sleeping the last three nights, so hopefully it’ll be the same.”
Should he sleep well, and in doing so avoid an onset Watney’s Mania [for initial diagnosis, see 2010 PGA Championship], the stage is set for a monumental triumph.
The only possible complication, and one by no means insignificant, is the presence of Angel Cabrera, in whose company McIlroy will spend Sunday afternoon. Of the youngster’s four nearest challengers, it’s the wildly talented Argentine who would seem to carry the most potent threat.