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Point/Counterpoint: Does Rory McIlroy’s win at The Open put him at the top of professional golf?

BY DI STAFF | JULY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Yes

After a nearly two-year vacation from golf’s elite, Rory McIlroy’s play this season is evidence that he’s come home.

After a great start at this year’s Masters, McIlroy slid into a tie for eighth place — leaving many to wonder if we would only see more of the same from the young star.

McIlroy proved those people wrong this weekend, finishing at 17-under at the British Open and clinching the third major championship of his young career.

And it wasn’t really even close; McIlroy led virtually all weekend. Despite great performances from Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, McIlroy remained calm and collected, holding onto a 2-stroke buffer as Fowler and Garcia made late charges.

McIlroy led by as many as 7 strokes, and when others started closing the gap, the 25-year-old held his ground.

He had struggled immensely since his last major win, the 2012 PGA Championship. In the past couple of years he often hasn’t even sniffed the leaderboards of golf’s biggest events. However, it was only a matter of time before he returned to his old ways.

With the British victory, he becomes the third-youngest player in history to win three majors. That’s a pretty impressive feat, especially considering that the two younger than him were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Woods has been the face of golf for the past 15 years, but his decline may pave the way for a new ambassador.

Critics are quick to point out that McIlroy has a tendency to fade under pressure in later rounds, but it is important to remember that he’s still young.

McIlroy seems to be doing just that, and he should jump make a big jump in the latest FedEx Cup standings.

He’s golf’s premier athlete after this win and should remain so for the foreseeable future.

— by Charles Green

No

Is Rory McIlroy back? After a dry season for wins last year, McIlroy, barely held on to his 6-shot lead in Sunday’s final round of the British Open. 

McIlroy’s last major win was in 2012 in the U.S. Open title at Congressional. Since then, McIlroy has been known to be a shaky competitor unable to finish tournaments, and in 2013, he declined significantly after his dominant 2012.

McIlroy would have a sterling record this season — if the events were 54 holes.

In worldwide events this season, McIlroy is 51-under in the first round, 19-under in the third-round, and 20-under on the final day. In the second round?

He’s a combined 9-over.

Seven times this season he has shot a nine-hole score of 40 or worse — and, remarkably, six of those came on a Friday.

McIlroy can be a dominant player. But if he is to continue that impressive trend, he will need to avoid the kind of slump that dominated his season in 2013, when he failed to win on the PGA Tour or contend in the majors.

These majors are flukes; the true McIlroy is revealed in tournaments that don’t receive the same coverage and recognition as the majors. These majors won’t keep coming for him. The likelihood of McIlroy completing the career grand slam is slim to none.

— by Erin Erickson


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