independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Rory McIlroy truly has game for all seasons

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off at the 14th hole during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament in Norton, Massachusetts September 3, 2012.

THE Boy Wonder is truly a marvel to behold. Yes, it's the Rory McIlroy Show at the top of the world rankings and he's simply breathtaking at the ripe old age of 23 as he parades his talent across the global stage.

I loved watching Rory mash the opposition by eight shots in the recent US PGA Championship, but it was also fascinating to observe him 'winning ugly' in the Deutsche Bank on Monday night.

Rory truly has a game for all seasons and conditions and his honesty was refreshing as he spoke about 'survival' in his head-to-head crunch clash with Louis Oosthuizen.

Never mind whether it was pretty or ugly, the name of the game was winning and it was a McIlroy 'W' that counted -- putting him in pole position to claim the $10m jackpot that goes with winning the FedEx Cup.

Indeed, the last five years have been so successful for Irish golf that you have to wonder if the sporting public, to a degree, is taking it all for granted.

Quite simply, the golfers have been way ahead of all other sports in terms of delivering the goods consistently. Padraig Harrington (three); McIlroy (two), Graeme McDowell (one) and Darren Clarke (one) -- that's seven Major championships in the last five years.

Put it another way -- they talk about our boxers producing medal-winning performances at the Olympics for decades -- and fair play to them. But let us give credit where it is due.

This run of golfing victories is effectively the equivalent of seven gold medals, all achieved at the highest level of international sport since 2007.

The only difference would be that they get paid for their Major wins, while an Olympic gold medal comes laden with honour rather than seven-figure cheques.

Of course, that begs the question as to what kind of an Irish team will we have when golf re-enters the Olympic arena in 2016 at Rio after an absence of 112 years?

The International Olympic Committee should insist on the golfers representing the country of their affiliated governing body. In this case it's the GUI, a 32-county entity.

It would mean that McIlroy, McDowell, and anyone else born on this island, would represent Ireland because they have come through the ranks playing for the Union.

Why change now? It's only the professional Tours that differentiate golfers from this island as 'Irish' or 'Northern Irish,' with the British commentators on television also playing their part in overlooking the facts of Irish golf.

Unified

We remain happily unified in golf on this island. One governing body and one international team, whether its members come from Bandon, Belfast, Belmullet or Balbriggan.

International Olympic Committee, European Tour, and SKY television, please take note of that fact. Likewise for the women and the ILGU.

Regarding Rio in four years' time, the format will be 72-hole stroke play competitions for men and women, with 60 in the field for the two events.

The competitors will qualify via the world rankings for the men and women, with the top 15 gaining entry no matter what country they represent.

After that, the organisers will go down the rankings. They will add players from countries that don't already have two players in the field and pass over countries that have two representatives until they get their 60 men and women competitors.

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