2022 US Open: Rory McIlroy may be taking on a sport, but he wants that major for himself

Brooklyn, MA – Rory McIlroy has been fighting for the spirit of golf for the past several weeks. On Thursday, in the first round of the 122nd US Open, everyone mentioned why his words carry such weight.

McIlroy is a phenomenal, standstill hub. He has taken charge as the game’s premier spokesperson for what its future might look like 10 or even 50 years from now, and in doing so, he has provided insightful insight, wise advice and a path forward for a game whose poise has been decimated by the duel of the LIV Golf-PGA Tour.

There are other great talkers in the game as well, but they don’t shoot 67 seconds through The Country Club’s first 18 holes.

The four-time main winner is going through an eight-year drought when it comes to winning big games, but McIlroy entered the week playing as he has played in years. He nearly missed the Masters in April, advanced in the first round in the PGA Championship in May and last week’s win at the RBC Canadian Open – taking 20-plus hits and beating Tony Finau and Justin Thomas – – perhaps his best performance ever in US Open Championship.

His game is now tighter than the dummy Tiger Woods neck shirt.

On Thursday, McIlroy built toward something nearly perfect with pars in the first six holes and two sparrows in his last three on the back nine of the course (he started at No. 10). A ridiculous parallel save on the challenging level 3 hole-two, plus an impossible one from the bunker in the short Par-4 5 kept the momentum descending. Then Rory tossed a No. 7 and No. 8 to hit his 4-under before a frustrated ghost eventually flung the club and some words that NBC wouldn’t be able to air even if they wanted to.

McIlroy was uncharacteristically certain for someone who was tied down in leading the club into the US Open. He was definitely the 67 most angry person he ever shot.

In addition to the club’s pitch, McIlroy unloaded his load in a bunker in that fifth hole after cutting one of his more interesting trash to another bunker a few feet away. After his run, he called out the players in front of his group for being slow and explained why he was so frustrated.

“You’re going to have things at the US Open, whether it’s lies or stuff like that, that you wouldn’t really face any other week,” McIlroy said of the fifth hole. β€œIt’s hard not to get frustrated because I’m walking there and I’m like, ‘Just go back to the bunker.’ The thickest coarse material on the track is around the edges of the bunkers.

“I was kinda cursing at the USGA when I was getting on the ball. It’s one of those things. It happens here; it doesn’t really happen anywhere else. You just have to accept it. I gave Sand a few hits because I really screwed it up, so it wasn’t like it was more work for him [caddie] Harry [Diamond]then I reset and played a decent decent shot, and then it was really nice to punch that punch.

“But yeah, you’re going to experience things this week that you wouldn’t normally encounter in other weeks of the year, and you just have to try to accept it as best you can.”

If you’ve followed McIlroy for longer than the past three days, it’s easy to give him the edge of the doubt for such outbursts. Although not exempt from criticism due to sand digging projects and club tossing, it was also a pleasure to see someone who at times looked as if they were walking in their sleep in major tournaments pure and fully engaged.

When asked if he thinks it’s okay to show competitive anger on the golf course β€” to remind others of how much the big business means β€” his answer is usually pretty cool.

He said, “Yes, of course.” “Almost to remind yourself sometimes how important that is to you, too.”

All of McIlroy’s four major wins included the first rounds in which he scored 67 or less, and in those four – 2011 US Open, 2012 PGA Championship, 2014 Open Championship, 2014 PGA Championship – McIlroy was either the lead or was within one of the top after the first round . This will likely be a position he will find himself in once Thursday’s round is over.

Bearing the dynamic burden of an entire sport sure eroded his emotions in ways he might not even be able to recognize in the moment. When players, media, and even CEOs at the highest level in the game ask what you think is the best way forward, the taxes are massive.

However, after the tour, McIlroy postponed his role as a leading statesman in a century-and-a-half game.

He said, “It’s just me.” “I’m living my life. I do what I think is right and I try to play the best golf possible. I wasn’t asked to be here. I wasn’t trying to be in the position. I just be me.”

McIlroy’s problem is that he is perhaps the greatest driver in the history of the sport, and perhaps a better speaker. His game gives his words gravity, and gravity rules the world.

As the US Open finds its footing, it would be nice to dismiss talk of the hype and turmoil among organizations fighting an unfair but inevitable war. Even McIlroy, when asked if he wanted to win this championship as a way to bolster his strength to turn the tide of his sport further, has instead turned the lights on from the future to the past and now the present.

He did what we should all be doing – at least for the next three days – by reminding everyone of the historic scale of the major tournament now underway that could soon be within his reach. Major Championship, based on the unintended consequences of relieving the regular golf season, now I mean more than ever.

“Not really,” McIlroy said when asked if the sport’s off-track heart was inspired to make a statement about it.

“It’s been eight years since I won a major, and I just want to get my hands on it again.”