Golf: One year later, McIlroy a star still waiting to shine
SAN FRANCISCO – So much felt the same to Rory McIlroy.
Draped behind his seat was a white banner filled with red-and-blue USGA logos, similar to the backdrop a year ago when he last faced a room full of reporters at the U.S. Open. The only thing missing was the silver trophy, which McIlroy had to return this week.
So much has changed.
A star was born last year at Congressional. McIlroy set the kind of records that once belonged to another young phenom – Tiger Woods – when he finished at 16-under 268 to win by eight shots. He was so good that the tournament effectively ended before the weekend arrived, when
McIlroy opened with rounds of 65 and 66.
Padraig Harrington suggested that the 22-year-old McIlroy ultimately might be the guy to challenge the Jack Nicklaus benchmark of 18 majors.
The kid remains 17 majors away.
Just as challenging is the scrutiny he faces off the golf course. His girlfriend is tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and they have been photographed in Paris and New York, once with McIlroy taking the court against Maria Sharapova during an exhibition at Madison Square Garden.
After his practice round Tuesday at
Olympic Club, he headed to AT&T Park to throw out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game.
There’s even a Rory McIlroy bobblehead.
This is the stuff of Hollywood, not his blue-collar hometown of Holywood in Northern Ireland.
It hasn’t all been a life of glitter. McIlroy fired his agent, Chubby
Chandler, who discovered him when he was a teenage prodigy. The decision pitted McIlroy against Lee Westwood, leading to a few awkward exchanges on Twitter.
“Hopefully,” McIlroy said, “[my success] didn’t change me much as a person. I still feel like the same person who sat here, or sat at Congressional, a year ago and was doing a press conference.”
He’s holding his own in that department.
When he missed the cut at Memorial for his third straight weekend off, he was drawing comparisons with Woods for all the wrong reasons. Woods never missed three straight cuts in his career. It was the eighth cut McIlroy had missed in his young career, as many as Woods had missed in 16 years.
McIlroy acheived the No.1 ranking for the first time on a big stage, in a manner that Woods could most certainly appreciate.
McIlroy won the Honda Classic with Woods charging at him with a 62.
While McIlroy battles Luke Donald for golf supremacy, another challenge may be looming.
With his second win of the year against another strong field, Woods is at No. 4 and perhaps starting to close in.
What a year it’s been
McIlroy’s 2012 tournament stats
FedExCup Points:1,372, 6th
Best Finish:1st at The Honda Classic
Top 10 Finishes:5