Nick Faldo hailed Rory McIlroy’s sensational Sunday 66 as “a perfect day.” But the six-time major winner and former McIlroy mentor reckons the Ulsterman’s 75 in Friday’s tough weather was a massive key to what eventually became an eight-stroke victory procession.
“It was amazing what Kiawah threw at him during the week and the 75 on Friday was very important,” Faldo told the Golf Channel on Monday. “That was a day when quite a few guys shot 80. And he was out there in the worst of it.”
Veteran American golf writer and Hall of Famer Dan Jenkins watched McIlroy shoot 80 in gale-marred second round of the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews and shook his head.
“The kid just didn’t know that shooting 75 was a good score,” he said, drawing on a cigarette.
Mcllroy now appears to have learned how to read a round. He is growing in experience on a weekly basis but he has also added new shots to his amory.
As his caddie JP Fitzgerald said in the wake of Sunday’s major win at Kiawah Island - as reported by Karl MacGinty in the Irish Independent and others (Jamie Corrigan, Philip Reid and David Facey) “he nominated the 220-yard 4-iron he played to a vicious left pin at 14 on Friday as the shot that best exemplified McIlroy’s courage and skill.”
The ocean gales were howling in off his left shoulder as McIlroy attempted a shot to a flag many of his peers described as impossible. “Trying to hold a shot like that against the wind is a big challenge. It takes a long time to learn it, but he has cracked it.
“You can see he has this ability to hit shots like that 4-iron. It’s the result of hard work and practice. It wasn’t a shot he had before but he’s worked on it and it paid off here.”
McIlroy had no doubt that Friday was an important step in his career:
“I was four over through 13 holes on Friday. It had all the signs of a round that could get away from you. I dug in there deep and made that birdie on 14, and it was a silly bogey on 15, but to come back and play 16 well and birdie that, and par the last two, that was definitely a line that I held together well and that 75 could easily have been a 77 or 78.
“Still wouldn’t have made a difference (chuckling). (Laughter). But no, I definitely feel like I’m getting better at handling conditions like that and being able to just know when a 74, 75 is a decent score and move on and know that the next day should be a bit better.”
Adding shots to his repertory is a skill his McIlroy’s former manager Chubby Chandler insisted would come in time.
McIlroy is certain to learn not just many more shots but also improve his decision making and course management over the next few years. The good days will be just as awesome as they are right now but the bad days may be even better, as that Friday 75 proved.