What a difference two months makes, huh? He told us he’d gotten over the massive disappointment at the Masters, but many didn’t believe. I did. I had a feeling he’d be OK. I’m thrilled he was able to shut up the naysayers at the very next major. I remember pundits implied that his final nine meltdown at Augusta could scar him for the rest of his career. Wrong. He has too much natural talent. He’s just that good. His optimistic outlook on life doesn’t hurt, either.
I was lucky enough to walk the last nine holes of Rory McIlroy’s decisive eight-shot victory at the US Open. I followed him the back nine during the third round, as well. By Saturday evening, I was pretty much convinced he had learned and moved on from prior experiences. It seems amazing that he had managed to mature tremendously in such a short period of time, but I guess nothing should cease to amaze me with that kid at this point.
Of all the golfers I’ve come across while covering the tour, he’s probably the most approachable, down-to-earth and genuinely nice, not to mention probably the most talented. (18-year-old Matteo Manassero is a close second.)
Anyway, I wrote about walking inside the ropes during Rory’s final nine for the WSJ.com. Here’s an excerpt:
This time when Rory McIlroy stood on the 10th tee, he nearly hit a hole-in-one. It’s not an easy shot, either – in fact, at Congressional it’s one of the most daunting, especially since the pin was in the front section, dangerously close to the water guarding the green.
From 214 yards, he knocked a six-iron to about 10 feet past the pin. As his ball slowly trickled back toward the cup, the crowd started cheering, becoming progressively louder as it rolled closer.
I was kneeling next to the green and lucky enough to have a front-row seat. When I saw the shot head straight for the flag and then start to roll back, I thought for sure it was going in the hole, but it trailed to the left a little before stopping six inches from falling in.
Perhaps an ace would have been asking for just too much. It was already a moment that sent chills down my back.
As McIlroy strolled down to the green, a crowd of roughly 15,000 people were on their feet, chanting his first name. He lifted his putter in the air to acknowledge them and gave a slight smile as he prepared for his kick-in birdie.
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(Photos by Kyle Auclair/InsideTheRopes.com)