So...Rory McIlroy went into the last round at Augusta with a 3-stroke lead, and proceeded to shoot 80. One of two things could have happened. One, the sting of that loss stays with him forever, and he becomes the golfer best known for never having achieved his limitless potential. Sad story, but one that is all too prevalent - in golf, and many other sports.
The second thing? Well, that would be what happened this weekend. A dominating, historic performance at the U.S. Open, one that in a fell swoop erased many of the records that a similarly young Tiger Woods set at the Open at Pebble Beach back in 2000. For those who don't watch golf on a regular basis, -16 at the U.S. Open is akin to...well, nothing. Because -16 at the U.S. Open doesn't happen. Never happened before - not even close - and if the USGA has anything to do with it, probably will never happen again.
And yes, I know that the conditions were somewhat unique - an unusual setup by the USGA that led to surprisingly easy pin placements, and weather conditions that led to stunted rough growth (the heat the prior week) and soft conditions (the rain that fell intermittently throughout the week). But still - even with all that, you really can't argue with an 8-shot victory at a major championship. That, in fact, would be the only thing that Rory did not accomplish that Tiger has - a victory margin greater than 8 shots.
But make no bones about it, the world of golf has gotten a good look at its next superstar. And it certainly appears to be a young kid out of Northern Ireland with a shock of curly hair that can only be contained by a well-fitted golf hat.
Well done, Rory McIlroy. The sky is the limit.