What is it that defines the greatest sporting spectacles? Is it competition or coronation? It made you gasp as Frankel laid waste the field to win the 2000 Guineas by a mile, but watching Mickael Barzalona drive Pour Moi from last to first in the Derby and take Carlton House in the last stride of the race could make a strong man weep. What was the greater Wimbledon final — the epic between Federer and Nadal in 2008, or a massacre such as when John McEnroe destroyed the Kiwi Chris Lewis in the early 80s? Well, I know which I’d prefer to watch. You looked on in awe as the all-conquering West Indies ruled the cricket world for 15 years from 1975, but by far the most memorable moment of that era was Botham’s heroics to seize an improbable victory over Australia in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.
So Rory McIlroy’s sublime achievement in brushing aside the opposition to win the US Open may have been one of the most uncompetitive, almost unexciting, of recent golfing majors, but it marked one of those moments that can define a sportsman forever: miss it and he’s finished, take it and he’s made. This was Rory’s moment — and he seemed to grasp that potentially intimidating fact. Better still, he was inspired by it.
To win a US Open at 22 years old is a great triumph, to win it by eight shots is extraordinary, to be the first man to shoot such low scores ever in the history of the event speaks for itself. But the backstory makes McIlroy’s win all the more remarkable. At Augusta this spring, leading as he went into the last round, he shot a disastrous ten over par and threw away the prospect of the green jacket.