Saturday, 6 September 2008

Seve thanks the lord that Rory waited a week to show what he can do...

Seve: circa 1976, he went and won five days younger than McIlroy can now manage
if he wins this week. Seve planned it, he was that good...

Rory McIlroy picked up his form again today at the Omega European Masters, and marched out into four shot lead over the field. He started in spectacular fashion. Having made birdie there the first two days, he grabbed an eagle today on the first hole, a feat matched by co-leader Brett Rumford. Rumford had to hole a monster 40 footer for his but McIlroy had done all the work with his majestic approach; his second, for which he needed only a nine iron (told you he could tonk it) had left him only three feet from the pin. But while Rumford couldn't keep up that lightning start, bogeying three of the next four to drop back, the young Northern Irishman pushed on, saying the eagle had "settled his nerves".

Three more birdies and one bogey on his first nine saw him surge off into the lead. Bogey on 10 and 12 threatened to see him drift backwards toward the pack but he picked up the pace once more and playing the last six in three under got him into the clubhouse in 66 shots, 5 under for the day and 13 under for the tournament. Aussie Rumford finished up with a 73 to end up back in a tie for 16th on 6 under.

If McIlroy prevails tomorrow on the course at Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland, he would go into the record books as the third youngest winner the European Tour has seen. It would be a massive step forward for him, as he has been starting to miss a few cuts of late and the massive buzz around him after his low amateur performance in the Open has faded. If he wins, that buzz will be bigger than ever - announcing the true arrival of a potential superstar.

He is only 19 still, and he would only be behind South African Dale Hayes who claimed the 1971 Spanish Open aged 18, while Seve Ballesteros was just five days younger than McIlroy at the 1976 Dutch Open. This performance coming a week too late for Rory to get one up on the Spanish Master. He doesn't plan to hold back tomorrow, thinking of stretching his lead rather than protecting it.

"This is my first time in this situation and I'm just really looking forward to tomorrow. I don't want to take my foot off the pedal - I've a four-shot lead and I'd like a six-shot lead tomorrow. Trying to make birdies is the way I play my best. It would be fantastic to win."

Brave words from a gutsy player, it'll be fantastic to see if he can manage it.

His main challenge should emerge from the group of seven on 9 under. Among them is Robert Dinwiddie who was in no ones radar after a first round 76. Two very impressive 64's however have hoisted him up the leaderboard - he's only dropped two strokes over those 36 holes and eagled the first both days. What would he have given for a decent first round, par would have seen him in the joint lead. Such is Golf. Jimenez is one shot further back and he'll probably be the man Rory will be watching for in the rear view mirror, though from what he's been saying, he's not the type to be looking back over his shoulder...

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