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 RICHARD SIMMONS
 Editor
 Golf International

Pure genius from Ireland’s finest

A very warm welcome to what must surely rank as the most auspicious issue of this magazine to have been published in its 14-year history as we celebrate not one but two home-grown major champions in as many months. Outstanding achievements both – and all the more remarkable for the wider context and manner in which they were individually won.

I first encountered Rory McIlroy when, at 14, he won his way onto a coaching week in Orlando as one of the elite stars of the Faldo Junior Series. Small for his age, and yet already marked for great things, he kept himself amused challenging anyone carrying loose change to chipping and putting contests – fleecing even Sir Nick himself on more than one occasion. Barely two years later McIlroy was the silver medallist in the 2007 Open at Carnoustie (what was all that nonsense at Sandwich about not having the nouse to play links golf?) and his rise to the top of the professional game has been effortless. Anyone who witnessed that closing round of 62 to secure a maiden PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow last year caught a glimpse of the future as the boy from Holywood showed just what he was capable of. Twelve months down the road and the 22 year-old humbled the mighty US Open layout at Congressional with what amounted to an exhibition, laying waste to all who dared to challenge him before cruising – yes, cruising – to an eight-shot victory.

It was a sublime four days' golf that laid bare just what a player of McIlroy's calibre can do with a golf ball when his mind is parked quietly in neutral – and all the more remarkable for that in light of what had appeared to be a crushing meltdown suffered only a handful of weeks previously at Augusta.

By a similar token, Darren Clarke's awakening at Royal St George’s was so profound that the world at large could appreciate, at last, the skills of a true master of the links genre plying his trade without hint or fear of self distraction. This was Clarke’s 21st appearance in golf’s greatest championship – and quite possibly the first in which he was on his own side throughout as he strode to the challenge over four quite punishing days on the Kent coast. “I’ve seen Tiger at his best and I’ve seen Darren at his,” says long-time friend and mentor Ewen Murray, interviewed for the 19th Hole Q&A inside this issue. “And I can honestly say there’s nothing much to choose between them. As his best Darren is a genius – and what we saw at Sandwich was that genius enjoying the freedom of expression.”

I’ll drink to that - enjoy the issue.

August 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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