Rory Likes Mo’s Way
As expected, the weather turned sour again at Royal Liverpool, and while that may have deterred some of the early leaders from sunny countries, albeit not much, it was all business as usual for Rory McIlroy, who shot his third consecutive round in the 60s to take a six stroke lead into the final day.
Whether McIlroy took a conscious lesson from Mo Martin’s winning strategy on 18 at Royal Birkdale, putting away the British Women’s Open, it’s a great tactic. Do something spectacular to which no one can mount a response – win it by refusing to lose it.
Mo Martin was all but out of her tournament, but wouldn’t accept that. Coming up 18, she hit the shot of her life, an on-the-pin second shot to a par-five, before calmly sinking the eagle putt, considerably more than a tap-in. Martin had choices, fade away, cling to a lead, settle for second or third, or go out and attack the flag and win. Of course, she did the latter – perfectly.
Rory put a few finishing touches on Martin’s performance. Earlier in the day, his four shot lead had disappeared, and suddenly, there they were, Ricki Fowler and Sergio Garcia, watching the two-round leader crumble. From that point, McIlroy turned Mo Martin, went back to attacking the course and pulled away again with a string of birdies and, yes, eagles, on the 16th and 18th. This from the guy who didn’t even retrieve his clubs from the airline until seven in the morning on the first day.
Here he is, now at the threshold of winning his third major to along with the U.S. Open and PGA (and a blown Masters – he should have been playing today for all the marbles in terms of career grand slams). He has a six shot lead on a course that seems to favor him. Historically, no one in the history of the majors has blown a six shot lead, but golf respects no records, even ignominious ones. All golfers know that however bad it gets, it could get worse.
Jean Van der Welde’s collapse was a five-shotter, and there was another back in the 20s. What McIlroy needs to do is not have one of those self-demolishing 78 kind of days.Perhaps it’s the kind of day to attack the flag, “sorta.”
The pressure is on Rory in a little different way than it was on Tiger Woods. By this time in his career, Tiger had left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was a winner. He was doing it all the time. Rory’s deal is that he has to win one of these to get into the “greats” club, or be thought of by some as a great potential with an unreliable mind running the show. Apparently, there will be some added pressure from an outrageous bet his father made some years ago that his son would win the Open before a certain age. At the time, the $300,000 plus wager must have looked like an easy score, taking advantage of a father’s overzealous belief in his son’s abilities. Now, I can only hope that they saved up so that they can pay off, because the chances are excellent that dad is going to win this one.
One journalist commented that it is sad, in a way, that Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler are probably playing well enough to win the Open on some years, but they have unfortunately stumbled into one of Rory’s explosions, something that no one does better. It doesn’t matter about the other weeks – if he gets it all hitting at once, there isn’t a better player in the world. And, if he decides to go all Mo Martin on the fourth round, everyone else is going to be purely ceremonial, anyway.