Anyone who has been near a computer or television since last April has heard the story of what happened to Rory McIlroy at the Masters. When a golfer takes a 4-shot lead into Sunday at Augusta and shoots an 80 in that final round, they aren't supposed to ever recover from that.
It would have surprised nobody if the 25-year old freckle-faced kid from Ireland never made a real run at a major ever again. Let alone a major just a few months removed from this historical collapse. But that's exactly what McIlroy has set himself up for after shooting the lowest two-round score at Congressional, ever. He reached 13-under par for the first time in the 111-year history of the US Open despite a double-bogey on 18 to finish the round. His 65 on Friday puts him at 11-under par through 36 holes, six shots ahead of second-place YE Yang (-5).
PGA Champion Martin Kaymer hasn't lost touch with the tremendous feat the young Irishman is displaying for the thousands of fans following him on Saturday witnessed. via espn.com
"Rory is obviously running away with it, so we are pretty much playing for second unless something crazy happens tomorrow. I hope he wins, though. He's a nice person and he deserves it, especially after the Masters."
Considering we are only halfway through the 72-hole tournament anything can happen. Rory knows this better than most.
"I put myself in a great position going into the weekend. But I know more than probably anyone else what can happen. So I've got to stay really focused and try and finish this thing off."
It's hard to not root for the kid who is not only carrying the pressure of winning a major golf championship, but also with the weight of his past that will only get heavier after each and every hole. There's no doubt that he will be a crowd favorite over the next two days. The psyche of a professional golfer is probably more fragile than in any other professional sport. Add into that a major championship for a young player with a troubled history down the stretch of a major, and you have the makings for an all-time golf moment, or another hard-to-watch Sunday round.
J.P. Fitzgerald has a tremendous amount of work ahead of himself as well. He is the caddie for McIlroy and for the next couple of days, he's the most important person in McIlroy's life. Fitzgerald, along with all caddies, have a certain psychological responsibility to these players that is unlike anything else in sports. They are the voice of calmness and reason for the players who may appear calm on the outside, but on the inside they look like a Ray Lewis pregame dance.
Everyone in that crowd will have the ability to carry McIlroy to the championship if he starts to struggle. It doesn't happen very often that players who have the kind of collapse that McIlroy had at Augusta get another opportunity to redeem themselves. Mitch Williams never got another chance to-not hang a slider to Joe Carter, Scott Norwood didn't get a mulligan on the 47-yard field goal against the Giants. Golf is great for this very reason. McIlory has his shot and not only has he shown the ability to bounce back after a tough situation, he's done it in dramatic fashion by breaking records that have stood for hundreds of years on Golfs' biggest stage.
What he has done to this point has not only shown the intestinal fortitude of the young star, but it's also brought back the painful memories of Augusta and something he'll have to answer to over the next couple of days. So as easy as moving on from the past sounds, it won't be easy when that's all anyone is going to talk about until you've won. Good luck Rory, most of golf is rooting for you.