This past Sunday, Rory McIlroy put an exclamation point on the finest global season of golf this side of Tiger Woods (the 2006 edition), with a five-birdie barrage to close out the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
As the last putt dropped in Dubai, so ended the European Tour’s official 2012 season. It’s time to look ahead to 2013, but first,we must look back. McIlroy’s performance the last few months gives us just cause to do so.
McIlroy’s late-season run has been magical. Dominating or legendary? Not quite. But he’s a magical athlete, there’s not another word worthy of his performance.
Starting at the PGA Championship in August, McIlroy went around the world with a winning clip of 50% – that is if you include the Ryder Cup, where he helped to lead the European squad to victory, despite his tardiness.
The Boy Wonder dusted the field at the PGA by eight strokes. Then, he won two of the four FedEx Cup playoff events before finishing 10-2-3-MC-1 in his final five events, including the victory in Dubai on Sunday.
The one blemish came in Hong Kong last week, McIlroy cited exhaustion as a factor.
Throw in a one-stroke victory over Tiger Woods at their made-for-money event in Zhengzhou, and McIlroy has had a busier fall than a school teacher.
Jason Sobel from The Golf Channel hits the nail on the head when he comments about McIlroy’s game. When he’s on and has his ‘A’ game, he’s tough to beat, he says. But when he has his ‘B’ or ‘C’ game, he’s vulnerable. This is unlike Woods – well, the Woods of old – who has won plenty of times when he wasn’t at his best.
The Woods & McIlroy bout will be the headlining attraction next year, like Ali & Foreman in 1974. But, the other storylines that exist in the golf world will combine to give the 2013 golf season an appropriate comparative moniker to that title fight from years go – a rumble in the jungle.
McIlroy is on top of the world and is only 23. The men in waiting are older, more experienced, and perhaps are getting desperate. They’ve had to play their entire careers in the shadow of a Tiger, but one who is no longer the king of that proverbial jungle.
Now, they have to play in the shadow of a wunderkind, with a lion’s mane of curly black locks.
The likes of Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Luke Donald all know that if they want to win a major in the next 20 years, they’re going to have to beat McIlroy.
These names, not to mention the Westwood’s, Mahan’s, McDowell’s, Oosthuizen’s, Snedeker’s, and Bradley’s of the golf world have all been playing and performing to the best of their abilities through the end of 2012 and it seems that they are all in top form heading into 2013 as well.
It’s this combination of storylines that give 2013 the potential to be the best year of professional golf in recent memory, if not ever.
It remains to be seen what next season will hold, but week in and week out, it’s unlikely that the best in the world will not be playing somewhere. With the wraparound schedules, the elimination of Q-School and the further development of golf as a global game, we do know that it will be a season for the ages.
Bring it on.
Despite the appearance of snow falling outside the windows of most Canadians, lots of eyes are on Q-School as there are seven Canucks in the field of the final stage. The names include Brad Fritsch, who has already locked up his Tour card but is looking to improve his ranking, and Adam Hadwin who just narrowly missed out on his card via the Web.com Tour. Nice write-up on Hadwin here by Robert Thompson… With Toronto Mayor Rob Ford likely to be shown the door in the next 14 days, this leaves a vacancy to be filled – in the interim at least, I assume – by Etobicoke councilor Doug Holyday. Why, you ask, do I mention this in a golf blog? Well, Holyday is a long-time member at St. Georges Golf & Country Club (host of five RBC Canadian Opens) and also the chair of the city’s audit committee. The committee is responsible for taking a look at the City’s expenses, including the expenses of its five golf courses. We’ll have to see if Holyday’s new, albeit temporary, role will have an impact on the city’s golf community; however, it’s likely he may have other tasks at hand… Cabot Links has been named Canada’s Best New Course by ScoreGolf Magazine. It will be interesting to see in 2014 where it falls on the magazines bi-annual ranking of the top 100 courses in the country. Many are saying it will be top-5 at least… Speaking of courses, rumours are swirling that some renovation work has been approved for The Old Course at St. Andrews, including the famous Road Hole bunker, which seems odd. The Old Course is ‘The Old Course’ for a reason…