There was, of course, only one real winner all week at the U.S. Open. No one came anywhere near Rory McIlroy, only the seventh player in 111 U.S. Opens to lead from start to finish without being tied.
Consider that his emphatic response to those who scribbled a thought such as this in a compilation of winners and losers at the Masters this year: “Loser: Rory McIlroy. It is assumed that his epic meltdown was `a learning experience.’ But who wants to learn that? Time will tell if he will be strengthened or haunted the next time he's on top.”
Chastened, but undaunted by that analysis, here is the same author’s survey of winners and losers at the Open, Non-Rory McIlroy Division:
Winner: Youth. McIlroy, 22, was the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones, 21, won at Inwood in 1923. He continued a trend of guys in their 20s shooting in the 60s to win big trophies (Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel).
Loser: History. All those scoring records were great, but they deserve at least half an asterisk because the course was so easy.
Winner: Jason Day. McIlroy’s peers all said they were shooting for second, and Day won that prize. He also had tied for runner-up at Augusta.
Loser: Phil Mickelson. Just didn’t seem like himself. You wonder if he is privately worried about his time having come and gone. Good news: Ray Floyd was 0-for-21 in Opens, as Phil is now, when he won in 1986. Bad news: Floyd didn’t have the likes of McIlroy, Oosthuizen, Kaymer, Day to deal with.
Winner: The USGA’s new openness. Willing to admit mistakes, the group began the week happily announcing it is bringing the Open back to Shinnecock Hills in 2018.
Loser: USGA’s graduated rough. Graduated? It looked like a high-school dropout. Rough was zero factor as Congressional yielded 108 rounds below par (second most ever, behind Medinah in 1990). All because of a little rain? Everyone had been scared of such a shootout in 2004, which led to the USGA making a scorched mockery of Shinnecock.
Winner: Tiger Woods’ legacy. His many achievements shone when McIlroy’s play drew comparisons to them.
Loser: Tiger Woods. TV ratings were down from what Tiger draws, but you can be sure of one screen that was tuned to it: that of Woods. Watching McIlroy had to make him more frustrated about his knee and Achilles.
Winner: Irish golf. Golfers from Ireland and Northern Ireland have won five majors in the past four years, including the past two U.S. Opens.
Loser: American golf. It has become embarrassing. No U.S. player was relevant in the U.S. national championship.
Winner: Haiti relief efforts. The photo on McIlroy’s heavily trafficked Twitter page calls attention to the devastated country he visited last week.
Loser: Inventory at the bar at Holywood Golf Club, the McIlroy family home club at which many toasts were raised Sunday night. “With everything going on my account, probably,” McIlroy said.
Loser: Congressional. There really wasn’t all that much bad weather, but soft greens wiped out what little defense the course had against low scores. Twenty golfers broke par for the tournament, also second ever to Medinah in 1990 (notice the Open has not returned to Medinah).
Winner: Bethpage. A heck of a lot more rain fell on the Black Course in 2009, and scores sure weren’t anything like Congressional’s. Only five golfers were under par at Bethpage and only the winner was more than 2 under.