So, Rory McIlroy is now the top-ranked golfer in the world. Nobody seems more excited than the U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland. Make that the 2010 U. S. Open champion, namely Graeme McDowell.
“Listen, I’m so happy for him; he’s a fantastic player, he’s a great kid and he’s going to be a fantastic world’s no. 1,” McDowell said of the 2011 and defending U.S. Open champ. “I’m just excited to be a friend of his and part of a team that he’s a part of, and I’m excited for the game of golf.”
The team that McDowell referred to is Horizon Sports Management.
McDowell could hardly contain himself when relating the gladiatorial atmosphere that took hold in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. when Tiger Woods entered the fray on Sunday in the final round of the Honda Classic.
“Right from the word go, I was on the range, Tiger, I guess, eagles 3, it was just roars going up all over the golf course, bombs going off all over the golf course,” said McDowell, who calmed down a bit when analyzing his own play. “I couldn’t quite get any fireworks going myself. It was kind of mediocrity; hit it to 30 feet all day.”
But then the conversation was redirected to McIlroy and his pursuers, and McDowell picked up the rhetorical tempo.
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“But for Rory to go out today with a 2-shot lead, and have Tiger shoot 62 on him, and [Lee] Westwood shoot 63, it just shows you how hard it is to win golf tournaments on any tour in the world, but especially this tour. I think regardless of what happens today, this season just got a lot more spicy.”
McDowell cited McIlroy’s increased proficiency and confidence with his putter as the factor behind the surge to the top.
“A couple years ago, yeah, he was probably a little question mark from inside six feet,” McDowell said. “The work he did with Dave Stockton, I guess, pre-Congressional last year, has made a huge amount of difference, and now he believes he’s a great putter. That was the missing link, because the rest of his game is all there.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen, tee-to-green, period. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger, early-to-mid 2000s, when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best; he’s the best player I’ve ever seen. Like I say, as soon as he learned how to putt, he was going to be a dominating force, and you’re starting to see that now.”