Friday, June 17, 2011

Rory McIlroy changes the feel of Congressional

All weekend, Shane Bacon will be out at Congressional, thanks to the fine people at Lexus (buy a Lexus ... and buy Jay one as well!). He will be reporting from the course (on crutches), so check back on both Saturday and Sunday.

BETHESDA, Md. -- Every tournament has a feel. It feels competitive or it feels brutal or it feels exciting or it feels historic. When Tiger Woods did what he did to Augusta National in 1997, every person in the gallery those last three days knew they were witnessing something that might never be seen again. Parents were picking up their kids so they could catch the kid with the swoosh and the swing. Grandparents knew this would be their last big golf memory. Fans couldn't turn away when Tiger was over his golf ball.

At the 1999 Ryder Cup, the same could be said that Sunday, when there was more electricity in the air than at GE.

Walking around Congressional this Friday, the feel wasn't any of those. It was just people confused at exactly what was happening. As Golf Digest's Sam Weinman joked on Twitter, "I'm not a network executive, but I have to think 'This putt, to get within seven' doesn't make for great TV," and he's right. But the difference in what Tiger did at Augusta, and then at Pebble Beach and then at St. Andrews, was that fans knew he was going to win. They knew after that first round in 2000 that this was Tiger's U.S. Open. They knew the same later at that British.

But McIlroy, who interestingly enough made comments earlier this week about LeBron James, might just be the LeBron of this game, because as much as most want him to win (for history, for the game, and for the future), everyone has been here before, and until our mind is changed, people await a collapse.

McIlroy was leading at last year's British and in the hunt at the PGA Championship. Then, of course, came his collapse at the Masters that nobody will let slip their mind as the week continues.

The crowds this afternoon aren't really watching the golfers play the course as much as they're thinking of what's to come tomorrow.

"Can Rory keep it together?" "How many will he be up by?" "How many is enough for McIlroy?"

A win would erase all that doubt, obviously, and it would do to golf what Tiger did in '97. This man would quickly become "the future" because, frankly, he's been standing at that door knocking for a couple of years and just waiting for someone to answer. He nearly got an answer at Quail Hollow a year ago because that win was important, but it wasn't life-changing.

This would be, and it seems everyone knows that.

As fans follow whatever group features a man seven or eight or nine shots back of Rory, they're really only thinking about one name, and for the first time for as long as I can remember major championships, that name isn't Tiger ... it's Rory, and he's played well enough to deserve that respect.

But what if ...

Monika Kramlik Lacey Chabert Amber Brkich Gretha Cavazzoni Marla Sokoloff

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