A couple of months ago, I watched Rory McIlroy melt down in the final round of the Masters.
He's a young guy, still learning, and he apparently learned a lot from that experience.
I say that because yesterday he entered the final round of the U.S. Open with an eight–stroke lead — and he left with the title in his pocket.
And, suddenly, there seems to be a move on to retire Tiger Woods — who was noticeably absent when the tournament began on Thursday.
The torch is being passed, writes David Whitley for The Sporting News, suggesting that McIlroy is the "anti–Tiger."
That really seems a bit too messianic to me.
"Tiger Woods was easy to admire but hard to embrace," writes Whitley, already applying the past tense to the 35–year–old Woods. "With Rory McIlroy, what's not to love?"
Now, I don't mind if McIlroy emerges as Woods' major challenger. Fans of certain athletes or teams may disagree, but I believe any sport, any team, any athlete benefits from competition. There may be dynasties from time to time, but they are enhanced by the presence of at least one plausible rival.
Winning the U.S. Open — even though the field did not include the once and (for at least the immediate and foreseeable) future king — makes McIlroy credible. But it is his only major tournament victory to this point. How many other guys have won at least one major in the years since Woods burst upon the scene?
It's a little premature to be proclaiming McIlroy golf's next superstar.
Perhaps, when he has faced Woods a few times, he will deserve to be seen that way.
But, right now, he may yet prove to be like so many athletes who caught lightning in a bottle.