I managed to watch the US Open live on June 19 at the famous ‘Yellow Rose of Texas' restaurant in Iquitos, Peru after a week of chasing snakes, tarantulas, caimans, frogs and spotting exotic birds, sloths and pink dolphins in the Amazon.
In winning the 2011 US Open, Rory McIlroy broke 12 records, the most significant of which was the number of strokes he took to do it: 268. The previous best: 272 by Jack Nicklaus. That is a monumental achievement - I expect he will win a fair share of majors.
Rory just loves golf, and shows it with every move he makes. He loves and appreciates his fans and takes the time to show that appreciation. He stops for autographs, gives balls to kids, smiles and tips his cap.
His golf game is not just for himself, it is for all who watch him. He has a sense of his place in history but he also golfs in relation to his competitors.
He swings like a ballet dancer, in sweet harmony and balance. To watch Rory swing is to watch a human being completely in the moment. It's a rare thing.
Setting the pace
The other thing I like about him is his pace of play. Whether tee to green, chipping, or putting, the man quickly sizes up his shot, as part of a no-nonsense pre-shot routine, addresses the ball and plays the shot. Rory makes decisions decisively, takes his swing, goes and finds his ball wherever it may have landed, and hits it again.
I loved how Rory displayed the gentleness in his character when he hugged his Dad after the US Open, playfully putting his hand on his Dad's head before he moved on to other business: high fives with fans, a hug from his friend Graeme McDowell, a short congrats from his agent Chubby Chandler, and off to the trophy presentation, where, above all, he thanked his Dad and his Mom for giving him the opportunities which led to that moment (his Dad, Gerry, worked two jobs to see that Rory got the proper instruction and competition when he was a boy). Yet, from a remarkably young age, he was driven not by his parents but by his own passion for the game. Rory, just seven, was already tuning into late-night golf at an age when most boys were finding it tough to sit through an episode of Thomas The Tank Engine.
Dawn of a new era
Golf has just ushered in a new era - the Rory era. It will certainly be a healthier dominance than the Tiger era. Woods was intimidating, and consciously so. He worked at intimidation, and he accomplished establishing an atmosphere of fear for his competitors.
This, I think, was not healthy for the game. With Rory, there will be others who will challenge his dominance. Golf will subsequently prosper, perhaps not the TV ratings, but in young people who take up the sport. In Rory McIlroy, they will find a role model who has taken on this great game and maintained its integrity, both on and off the course.
The new 22-year-old champion is connected to his community and his game, in a way Tiger Woods never was. Woods' brilliance was a fine advertisement for the game, yet he needed a consistent challenger and golf was missing a bit of warmth and humility.
Incidentally, Rory McIlroy celebrated his first major victory at the age of 19 when he became the seventh youngest winner on the European Tour at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2009.