Rory wins with freedom

It has often been said that Rory McIlroy at his best is better than just about anyone else on the planet’s best.

Having stayed up past my normal bed time to watch his victory procession at the RBC Canadian Open last night, it was easy to see why.

Going into the final round tied for the lead, it would have been easy for Rory to feel his way into the round and make a push for the win as the day progressed. However, that does not appear to be in his nature.

With five birdies in his first seven holes, McIlroy made the turn in 30, leaving the field trailing in his wake. Rather than try to defend that lead, he put his foot to the floor, making further birdies at the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th and an eagle at the 17th, his only glitches being dropped shots at the 16th and 18th en route to an incredible 61 and a seven shot victory.

Rory split fairway after fairway, hit his iron shots almost the perfect distance hole after hole and holed putt after putt. It really is a joy to watch a top professional in complete control of every aspect of their game.

Yes his golf swing and putting stroke look as good as perhaps they ever have but what was even more impressive was the freedom with which he played. What we witnessed in the final round in Canada was a master class in creativity and shot making. The variety of shots he played was simply awesome.

It’s all very well hitting the ball 330 yards down the middle of every fairway and knocking the paint of the flags with iron shots but ultimately you have to hole the putts to put a score together. Rory did just that with consummate ease. His pace putting was outstanding. Yes he got the lines right but line is nothing without the appropriate pace.

With the US Open at Pebble Beach only a few days away and The Open Championship at Royal Portrush on his doorstep next month, Rory must be among the favourites for both.

His run of form in 2019 is nothing short of astonishing. He has played in 13 PGA Tour events, finished in the top 10 eight times and won The Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open.

When Rory is on form, he is on fire.

This is great news for golf fans in the UK as he has committed to play in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open the week before The Open Championship where Scottish and Irish golf fans will no doubt flock to see the 30 year old from Hollywood in their thousands.

Rory McIlroy is box office and golf is in a good place when he is in control of his golf ball and his script, the golfing world takes note.

In his press conference after wining in Canada, he was asked if he was surprised to win after missing the cut last week, he replied “No. That’s golf. What people don’t understand is that playing golf at this level, the margins are so fine. I never get too carried away when I’m playing well and I never get too carried away when I’m not. Something like this is always around the corner. My form this year has been great.”

Talking very openly, he continued “This is affirmation of what I can do when I play with complete freedom and trust myself and my game.”

If he continues with that mindset, who knows what he can achieve in the coming weeks. Having been to numerous Scottish and Irish Opens over the years, I know how much these fans love their golf and the support he will receive will be off the charts.

Irish golf is in good hands at the moment with a number of their top players playing some great golf at the moment. Shane Lowry finished T2 in Canada and Graeme McDowell bravely holed a 30 foot par putt to finished T8. G-Mac’s putt meant a whole lot more than a top ten finish. It also ensured he qualified for The Open at Portrush, his home course.

McIlroy confessed to watching leaderboards throughout the final round, largely to see how his good friend G-Mac was getting on. Thankfully, this didn’t distract him too much and he was genuinely delighted to know that his countryman will be joining him at Portrush.

The courses and conditions at both the Scottish Open and The Open itself will both demand that players control their golf ball and themselves. Shot making and creativity will undoubtedly be in high demand as will the ability to hole putts when it matters.

Graeme McDowell has very kindly said that a lot of the concepts in “The Lost Art Of Putting” and the work he has done with co-author Karl Morris have helped him regain his confidence on the greens and we look forward to watching him and everyone else in the last two Majors of 2019 in the coming weeks.

Exciting times ahead.