Paul Anthony Arco

The Takeaway

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Hear Me, Rory

Monday, June 20, 2011


He wasn't going to blow this lead.

Not this time.

Not this major.

Two months ago, Rory McIlroy wasted a four-shot lead when he unraveled in the final round of the Masters.

On Sunday, the fresh-faced kid from Northern Ireland won his first major championship by shooting a 2-under 69 and closed his four-day odyssey at 16-under 268, eight shots ahead of Jason Day and shattering the U.S. Open scoring record that was held by four players, including Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
His undoing at the Masters started on No. 10 thanks to an errant drive. He finished with an 80 and a disappointing T15.

This time, No. 10 was the beginning of McIlroy's victory march. On the 214-yard par-3, he landed his shot above the hole and watched it spin back and 10 inches away from an ace. He settled for a birdie, but wasn't complaining.

Most golfers can only dream of the kind of tournament Kid Wonder had at Congressional. He tied or set 12 U.S. Open records. He is now exempt into the next 10 U.S. Opens as well as the next five British Opens, PGA Championships and Masters.

And with his win at Congressional, he might just be the answer to golf's burning question – who can replace Woods as golf's next superstar?

You could feel the torch being passed on Sunday, with chants of "Rory, Rory" serving as the backdrop, as a throng of security detail escorted McIlroy through the crowd.

Since the Masters began in 1934, McIlroy is the second youngest major champion next to Woods (Masters, 1997).

Fellow golfers rave about him.

There's no doubt this 22-year-old is special.

And he's exactly what golf needs right now.

A New Day

Runner-up Jason Day's first start at the U.S. Open was a good one. By finishing second at 8-under 276, the 23-year-old Day recorded his third straight top-10 finish in a major.

He tied for second at the Masters in his first appearance and he was tied for fourth entering the final round of last year's PGA, too, and ended up T10. Day came back to steal second from Y.E. Yang, who struggled at the end to finish T3.

Different Strokes

There was other golf being played on Sunday. Mat Goggin shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday to win the Nationwide's 22nd Preferred Health Systems Wichita by one stroke over Kyle Thompson, who won the Rex Hospital Open a week ago.

Goggin finished 18-under 266 for his fourth career title on the Nationwide Tour and second this year. Thanks to the immediate, automatic promotion awarded for three victories in a single season on the Nationwide Tour, Goggin could earn a return to the PGA TOUR soon. Goggin made the cut in 13 or 28 starts on the TOUR last year and ended the season No. 159 on the money list. Two years ago, he was among the top 15 in the world and played in the last group at The Open.
Stray Shots

Prior to his top-10 finish, Yang had missed the cut in three of his last four starts, including the Players and the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He has four top 10s in only 11 starts this year … Two golfers not in the top 10 this week were Matt Kuchar (T14) and Luke Donald (T45). The pair, however, still lead the PGA TOUR with eight top 10s. For Donald his streak of 10 straight was snapped, but he's still on top in the FedExCup standings … After missing the cut in his last two U.S. Open starts, Robert Garrigus (T3) scored his first top-10 finish in a major … PGA TOUR rookie Kevin Chappell will remember his first start in a major, thanks to a T3 finish. He was T2 at the Valero Texas Open earlier this year … Sergio Garcia (T7) recorded his first top-10 finish since the 2009 U.S. Open. He shot par-or-better all four rounds at Congressional … It took 16 career starts in majors, but Peter Hanson (T7) finally earned his first top-10 finish … Lee Westwood's third-round 65 was his lowest round in 53 career starts in a major. He has top-five finishes in six of his last 12 major starts … Marcel Siem tied McIlroy with a second-round low 66, but finished T60 at 292.

Happy Father's Day

Watching McIlroy embrace his father after clinching his first major championship, I couldn't help but think if another golfer who wasn't in the field at Congressional this Father's Day weekend.

Billy Mayfair has seen his share of good and bad days throughout his career. He won five tournaments in the 1990s, including the 1995 Western Open and the 1998 Nissan Open, where he became the only player to defeat Tiger Woods in a sudden-death playoff.

But Mayfair has struggled the last few years. In 2009, he made 13 of 28 cuts and finished 157th on the money list. He hasn't fared much better this year, missing the cut in three of his last four starts, sitting 103rd in the FedExCup standings.

But some things are more important than golf. In 2006, Mayfair was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Now in remission, Mayfair is helping to spread the word. He has set up a program called "Birdies for Testicular Cancer." For every birdie he makes, Mayfair donates money to testicular cancer research. And he supports cancer-related golf events, including a fundraiser I organize which benefits testicular cancer research.

Two years after Mayfair's illness, I, too, was diagnosed with the same disease.

I caught up with Mayfair last year, after he missed the cut at the John Deere Classic. "I'm real happy with my career," he said. "Obviously, the past few years have been a struggle. If I don't win again, I'd be very satisfied."

When Mayfair isn't playing golf, he enjoys spending time with his 11-year-old son, Max.

"There's nothing more precious than life," he said. "Even when you go out and shoot a 77 and not have a very good day, I still have my son and wife to go home to. And that will never change."

Happy Father's Day, Billy.

Paul Anthony Arco can be reached at paul@paulanthonyarco.com




Paul Anthony Arco is a freelance writer and contributor to rotoworld.com. He is host of The Golf Show!, which airs Saturday mornings on WNTA 1330 AM (www.wnta.com) in Rockford, Ill. Paul can be reached at paul@paulanthonyarco.com
Email :Paul Anthony Arco


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