Sport throws up some strange stories sometimes. For 4o years no European golfer won the U.S Open. Last night as Rory McIlroy sauntered down the 18th at Congressional, days after having left the field behind, he wore the look of a man who had come of age at the tender age of 22. Not since Tiger Wood's demolition of the field in 2000 at Peeble Beach has a Major witnessed such a dominance by an individual. McIlroy not only won, he broke many of the records Woods claimed on that occasion.
Not only is McIllroy a European winner for the second year running, but he is also the second man from Northern Ireland to win the US Open after Graham McDowell's coming of age moment at the same event last year. I'm not a stat guy, but the probabilities of something like that are to say the least, extremely unlikely. I'd love to set some Math dude loose on coming up with odds/percentages/whatever on that happening.
Few would have predicted McIlroy's dismantling of the field at the notoriously difficult Congressional Course as he made his way off the green at the 18th at Augusta just a few months back having blown a 4 shot lead before disappearing down the field.
I don't think anyone can doubt his metal after last nights win. I doubt McIlroy doubted it for more than a few hours after his Augusta collapse. All great champions can do that, but for one so young, it's rare.
Fred Daly was Ireland's first Major winner back in 1947. A lot like waiting on Arsenal to win the Champions League, or Ireland the World Cup, another Irish major winner was beginning to look like visions from night time dreams, before Dubliner Paddy Harrington stepped up and won back-to-back British Opens and then added a PGA Championship to make it three major wins in six outings back in the noughties.
Since then Harrington has fallen away somewhat, but it's a game that produces few capable of life long longevity when it comes to consistently winning Major championships.
When Tiger continues his trickle down the World Rankings it seems that golf has been crying out for a new dominant figure, but talk of McIlroy being as dominant as Woods is premature. Is McIlroy capable? I think there is little doubt about that. But 14 Major wins and 70 wins worldwide is a long way off just yet. McIlroy's victory on Sunday was just his third career victory. McIlroy seems to be someone capable of learning from every experience and if that continues the world is his oyster for the foreseeable future.
European golf is strong at the moment. There have never been so many Europeans in the top ten. Westwood and Donald are currently swapping the number 1 spot after Tiger loosened his grip after his marriage feel apart. He has rarely shown signs of the dominant force he once was since. Will he get it back? Personally I don't think he will. He will win again, but he'll never be as dominant again.
What golf longs for is some good old fashioned rivaleries again. Shoot-outs like when Nicklaus and Watson would go at it down the back 9. There's a lot of consistentely good golfers emerging. Likely looking Major winners have to include Donald, Westwood and another few from Kaymer. In America, Bubba Watson and Jason Day should also win majors over the coming years. And while McIlroy currently holds the throne on the new kids on the block, Italian teenage Matteo Manassero has already won twice on the European Tour, so who knows what he is capable of.
It's good to see Ireland achieve on the World Stage, be it from a national from our nearest neighbour. Ireland has a proud pedigree in golf and has played the sport as an island for decades with a win in the World Cup and multiple Dunhill Cups.
With so little money being put into the development of sport in Ireland, moments like this do make one wonder if the effort was stronger perhaps, a spirit of national pride could be felt more. The sacrifices made by parents and clubs up and down this country, regardless of what type of sport is involved is a credit to them.
I doubt none would have felt that more than McIlroy's Dad as he watched his son hoist the trophy on Sunday evening on a Father's Day. You'd find it hard to write that...even in fairytale, but it's a nice feeling to know that once in a while, they can happen...