Cool and controlled, McIlroy reaching a new level

Winning the Open Championship was never going to be easy and so it shouldn’t be either.

In the face of adversity and almost constant criticism of underachievement it was wonderful to see Rory McIlroy once again finding a way to win a Major championship.

For the romantics, his victory meant the third leg of a career grand slam accomplished, but it was so much more.

This week he dominated the Open Championship and in the process emphatically buried all the myths surrounding his game and him as a person. In winning, he oozed self-confidence while demonstrating patience and ambition.

Yesterday’s round in particular was more controlled than comfortable, but even when under the greatest strain over the closing holes, he allowed all his talents to shine.

If greatness was based on defining moments, this past weeks performance was a tour de force, something, which we haven’t seen since Tiger, was at his dominant best. The result also saw his legitimate coronation once again as the best golfer on the planet, despite what the world rankings might say.

In full stride, few can match McIlroy’s mesmerising abilities on the course, but his most endearing trait is his aggression. Much like Arnold Palmer of old, he understands that his greatest strengths lie in attacking golf courses with swashbuckling power panache and finesse.

It is high-octane stuff that keeps everyone on the edges of their seats and how the appreciative golf galleries responded.

This was not a victory borne out of cagey conservatism. Instead, it was a tournament won with a calibre of golf that would warm the heart of even the harshest critic. McIlroy was an artist in full flight, using the Open Championship as his canvas.

On form, he is so far ahead of the rest, that they are simply chasing shadows. McIlroy, you feel, knows that too but rather than rest on his laurels and his wealth, this year we have seen him knuckle down to redouble his efforts in an effort to get even better. If this past week is anything to go by, then McIlroy has transitioned from a flaky player to a hardened competitor, and that is ominous for his fellow competitors.

With his game face on last week, it always looked like he was prepared to overcome all obstacles in his pursuit of the title.

Calmly and methodically, he dismantled Hoylake. Over the opening rounds, it looked effortless but over the closing rounds, it looked ruthless, and in the process he demonstrated the necessary urgency that suggests that he will be a significantly stronger and more consistent force in professional golf for many years to come

That love of the game has undoubtedly kept McIlroy going through what have been tough times for him over the past year of his young career, and credit for helping to keep him focused must go to his parents, Gerry and Rosie McIlroy.

Their unconditional support in public and behind closed doors would have been essential for McIlroy, as would have been the support of his caddy JP Fitzgerald and coach Michael Bannon.

Collectively, this tight-knit group has helped his development considerably as a person on the lonely road of professional golf. In getting Rory through the past year they have also helped him to mature and develop faster.

Thanks to them, he was both calm and reassured yesterday on what was probably the most important day of his career to date.

Going forward, McIlroy now has the opportunity to truly become the dominant figure in the game, the ability to contest for every Major championship he plays in and even compete for Woods and Nicklaus’s record haul of Major championship wins.

That is something I would not have said of him before last week but along with maturity, he now possesses the ability to handle adversity, the courage to succeed and the ice in his veins to win.

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