Many golf fans from the Hagerstown area made the junket to Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., last week for the 111th U.S. Open championship.
Those attending Thursday’s opening round witnessed the beginning of the end if they were watching Rory McIlroy. Those on hand Friday and Saturday saw the continued dominance by the 22-year-old. Sunday’s gallery viewed the coronation of the newest Open champion and quite possibly golf’s future star.
McIlroy shattered the U.S. Open scoring record with his 16-under-par score, leaving his competitors far back in the rear-view mirror on the way to his first major championship.
Dirk Schultz, head professional at Beaver Creek Country Club, has played Congressional a few times, albeit not in U.S. Open conditions.
“Nothing phased him the whole week,” said Schultz. “How far he hits the golf ball, his putting. It’s amazing what he did. The top three players in the world didn’t come close to that.”
Schultz thought the course played softer and a little easier thanks to rain that fell periodically in the overnight hours during the tournament.
“(McIlroy) just kept attacking the golf course,” said Brian Boggs, assistant pro at Fountain Head Country Club. “It was an unbelievable performance. Ridiculous.”
Said Bill Hoffman, assistant at Beaver Creek: “He was outstanding, fearless. Not in 100 years did I think someone would score like this.”
McIlroy’s record-shattering victory began to draw immediate comparisons, even though it was only his third championship in more than 100 starts.
Will he be the next Tiger Woods? Will he shatter the record for major victories?
“Everyone is making him out as the next coming,” said Schultz. “He’s a little younger than Jack Nicklaus when he won his first major. I think he’ll be the real deal.”
The new face of golf?
“Maybe, but there are just so many good players,” said Boggs. “It’s very competitive. Look at Jason Day (second in the Open at 8 under) and he’s only 23.”
To put McIlroy’s win in perspective, Day’s 8 under would have won the two previous Opens at Congressional, as well as any of the seven previous Opens.
Golf might have its new star on the horizon, at least with Woods on the mend. But McIlroy’s not likely to increase his schedule in the United States a great deal, at least not now.
Darren Smith, golf professional at Waynesboro Country Club, was amazed at a statistic that covered four rounds.
“There have been 111 Opens, so you figure, with the old days, that’s about 22,000 rounds of golf,” Smith said. “Until this year, there were only four times a player had shot sub-70s in all four rounds of the Open.” Lee Trevino was the first in 1968.
McIlroy shot rounds of 65, 66, 68 and 69.