Will Rory's LACC story finally end in glory?

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The four-time major winner's quest to end his winless streak in majors has been analbatross around McIlroy's neck since 2014. M. James Ward outlines how playing in the penultimate pairing, just one-shot back, is a moment he must seize upon today
Posted on
June 18, 2023
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Los Angeles, CA. To whom much is given, much will be required.

That specific Biblical verse is most apt for the talented Rory McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman took a different approach heading into the 123rd U.S. Open this week. Rory was not going to be pushed into distracting press conferences. Where media would bombard him with a whole slew of questions tied to extraneous matters only forcing to speak about non-relevant issues and robbing him of valuable preparation time.

Through three rounds of this year's U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club, the 34-year-old is just one shot off the lead heading into today's final round.

The stage is set. A final round in another major - this one coming on Father's Day.

For McIlroy, the need is more obvious than ever before.

Another chapter for Rory's story will be written today.

McIlroy, since turning professional in 2007, has had the stamp of greatness embedded on his forehead.

In his early development the promise of expectations came swiftly. Even after a critical slip-up at the 2011 Masters, Rory righted matters with a record win at the U.S. Open that followed that year. He was able to add three additional major triumphs through August of 2014.

The promising pathway suggested a possible Tiger-like connection for the then 25-year-old.

No less than 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus said the following:
"Rory is an unbelievable talent. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing, I love his swing."

To whom much is given, much will be required.

A heady endorsement indeed from the Golden Bear.

Then the spigot went dry -- bone dry.

Now, nearly nine years counting.

McIlroy knows full well the pain. At last year's Open Championship at the famed Old Course at St. Andrews he headed into the final round tied for the lead and appeared poised to not only end the drought but do so at the home of golf.

How fitting.

Then the opposite happened.

Rory was totally outplayed by Cameron Smith who walked away with the Claret Jug that McIlroy was poised to raise above his head.

Time and talent are not endless and McIlroy knows this better than anyone.

 

Rory McIlroy's major championship finishes since 2010

Tournament 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
The Masters CUT T15 T40 T25 T8 4 T10 T7 T5 T21 T5 CUT 2 CUT
U.S. Open CUT 1 CUT T41 T23 T9 CUT CUT CUT T9 T8 T7 T5
The Open T3 T25 T60 CUT 1 T5 T4 T2 CUT - T46 3
PGA
Championship
T3 T64 1 T8 1 17 CUT T22 T50 T8 T33 T49 8 T7

 

McIlroy has worked his way through three rounds at the 123rd U.S. Open and is just one shot behind the two co-leaders Rickie Fowler and Wyndham Clark.

He is paired today with the world ranked number one player Scottie Scheffler who is intent on showing all watching eyes that he is the new king of the sport. McIlroy is fully aware of what the 26-year-old fellow competitor he is paired with is seeking to do. Rory's memories when he was that same age are crystal clear on that front.

The four major championships convey lasting legacy. The U.S. Open is arguably the most gut-wrenching and hardest of all to claim. Check the record book and the names of Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods are front and center. A second U.S. Open win would give McIlroy belief he can once again be moving in that direction.

His play during Saturday's 3rd round was a demonstration of the considerable firepower he possesses. Consistently bashing the longest of tee shots and achieving consistent placement has been front and center.

The prodigious 388-yard tee shot at the par-5 590-yard 1st simply required an 8-iron approach for an easy birdie to start the day.

While the long game has never been an issue for Rory it remains the inexplicable lack of putting prowess that has held him back. His 3rd round of 69 was good -- but lacking the payoffs on the putting surfaces.

Even his noteworthy long game deserted him during the round. A smashed tee shot left a simple 6-iron to the par-5 8th and he meekly walked off the green with just a par.

McIlroy has remained steadfast in his play because patience in a U.S. Open is a must-have ingredient for the duration of the event.

Whose U.S. Open triumph will provide a Hollywood ending today? Those who have followed the ups and downs of Rickie Fowler will be pulling hard for the native Californian to ascend what looked to be an endless ladder back into the upper echelons of world class golf.

McIlroy's quest has followed a different pathway but the burden of talent is a heavy one to bear.

All of golf's greatest champions have been in the same position McIlroy occupies today. Opportunities are not limitless -- they have a time stamp on them.

And no one knows that better than Rory himself.

To whom much is given, much will be required.

McIlroy's mission could not be clearer.

Crystal clear.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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