A few random thoughts in the wake of the 2011 US Open:
1. I’m not really all that impressed with the breathless recitation of Rory’s 12 records at the Open. Those aren’t records. That’s data retrieval. Don’t get me wrong. The kid was awesome, but really who keeps track of 36 hole scores or leads or number of holes to get to double digits under par? Just another example of what happens when you give sports geeks access to computers. For my money there are just two records in golf and their numbers are 59 and 18. Everything else is just material for barroom bets.
2. If I’m Charl Schwartzel I’m thinking to myself, “What am I? Chopped liver?” And the short answer is yes. You may have gone birdie-birdie-birdie to win one of the more exciting Masters of the last decade but nobody cares. We’ve got the wunderkid from Northern Ireland and you’re just another guy in a green jacket with a weird menu up your sleeve. (Which brings to mind this completely ridiculous golf fantasy question: if you won the Masters what would you select for the menu the following year?) Golf has clearly become an international game but you and Oosty represent a more ominous trend: Golf’s Era of Bad Dentistry.
3. For all the commentators who are positioning Rory as the next Tiger, I have a suggestion. Close your eyes and visualize the faces of these two golfers. Time’s up. Now, let’s revisit this. Do you really want to stick with this notion that the younger guy is just this year’s model? You didn’t notice any significant differences? Wow, a white Protestant kid who’s gifted at golf. That’s really something new.
3(a). Why does everything have to be a sequel? Why is every new thing just the next something else? I get why Hollywood does it but why do we do it to ourselves?
4. I’ve got a to-do list for Rory. In order to become a truly great golfer the majors have to be the stage where he does all the things that the rest of us savor in our own sloppier version of the game. He’s already checked some of these off the list but there’s a lot left to do. He could win every St. Jude Classic from now until the Second Coming and he won’t be among the greats until he does the following at one of the Big Four:
(a) The Act of Redemption: you screwed something up but then the next time around you handled it. Done.
(b) The Big Payday: you played really well while everybody else was just okay or kind of horrible. Done.
(c) You came from way behind to win at the end.
(d) You sink the last putt to win it.
(e) You beat your rival when you both were playing your best.
(f) You found a way to win when you weren’t playing your best.
(g) You had the lead, you blew it but then you hung on to win.
(h) You win in a playoff.
One of the great things about golf is that we golfers are both participants and fans. We play a very different version of the game than Rory and Tiger but the essential elements are the same. Most of us have never faced major league pitching or had to complete a pass when it’s third and seventeen. But we’ve all had putts to sink and pars to save and so greatness for us is when the best in the game re-enact the thrills we’ve experienced but under the most demanding circumstances.