US Open 2011: 10 Lessons We Learned from Congressional
The 2011 U.S. Open is now in the books.
We saw fantastic golf at Congressional. And despite the easy course set up, the championship was as entertaining to watch as most.
But with Rory McIlroy's dominating win came some things we must take away from the tournament.
The golfers learned some things about themselves, and the fans learned some things about the golfers.
Here are ten things we all learned from Congressional.
1. USGA Let Congressional Get Away from Them
The U.S. Open is traditionally known as the toughest test in golf.
I guess the USGA forgot that when setting up Congressional this year.
For the tournament, 20 players finished under par. 20! That is a number from any other tournament on the PGA Tour, but not the U.S. Open.
Some of the conditions were out of the USGA hands, I'll admit. The heat wasn't conducive to growing rough, and rain overnight left the greens soft.
But still, the USGA could have done more to protect par.
I mean, the Sunday pin positions sat in bowls. Balls would literally funnel down and settle right next to the cup!
2. Rory McIlroy Made His Case for No. 1
Rory McIlroy's performance was not just good at Congressional. It was 2000 at Pebble Beach Tiger-esque dominating.
McIlroy lapped the field by eight shots, to win his first major. He did something similar through three rounds at Augusta in the Masters.
His game is the best in the world right now. So where is he ranked in world rankings?
Uhh...something seems off here. McIlroy is the best player in the world right now. He needs to be, at worst, in the top three.
3. Tiger's Route to Jack Nicklaus Major Record Just Got Harder
Until the U.S. Open, I was fairly confident it was still possible for Tiger Woods to win five more majors and surpass Nicklaus' record 18 major wins.
Rory McIlroy's dominating performance at Congressional makes me doubt that thought.
This was the first week in Tiger's absence that another professional has shown he is capable of dominating the field in a way similar to Tiger.
And Rory's game was so good, so near-perfect, that unless he has an off week in a major, he is going to be a factor for years to come.
Rory insured Tiger's path to major victories is no longer paved with gold. In fact, Rory may have made certain that his path has a permanent road block.
4. American Golf Is in a Lull
In the top ten finishers at the U.S. Open, only two happened to be Americans.
And no, Phil Mickelson was not one of them.
Instead, Kevin Chappell and Robert Garrigus were the only two players from the United States to nab a top ten. Nothing against either of these guys, but that spells trouble for the state of golf in the United States.
In fact, the last three major winners from the United States were Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover. Other than Mickelson, who is on the back end of his career, the other two do not exactly scream multiple major winner.
So American golf needs help. Unfortunately, I do not see anything out there to signal help is on the way.
5. Rory McIlroy Is Now the Feared Golfer
Before Tiger Woods' very public fall from grace, he was the golfer everyone feared. When he was in contention, you could expect the field to start backing up.
But with his off-the-course issues, his aura of invincibility disappeared.
Luckily for Rory McIlroy, it appears to have transferred to him.
Rory's performance left many fellow players awe-struck. That doesn't happen too often on tour. It left many players with the feeling that there is no possible way for them to compete with the 22 year old Irishman.
And they are probably right. No one else on Earth can match the game Rory displayed this weekend.
6. Phil Mickelson May Be Done Winning Majors
Phil Mickelson's game at Congressional left me with one feeling: he is done winning majors.
He simply does not have the game anymore. Not with golf's new guard ready to move in.
Mickelson only had one round under par. This is the easiest course the U.S. Open has been played on in decades.
It is clear his game needs help. With his age, I just don't think he has the time to get the help it needs.
7. Lee Westwood Is a Serious Major Threat
Lee Westwood has always hung around in the majors. But that is all he has done.
His six-under par, 65, on Saturday showed me that he is a serious threat to win a major.
OK, maybe no one is a serious threat if McIlroy is on top of his game, but it is easily foreseeable that Westwood will win at least one major by the time his playing days are done.
8. Rory McIlroy's Only Threat Is Himself
Rory McIlroy's game goes unmatched by any other golfer on tour.
Even if Tiger returns to compete at a high level, I don't think his game is as good as the one Rory displayed this weekend.
And with no other "great" players on the horizon, Rory's only threat is himself.
The only thing that will stop him from winning multiple majors is injury or mental fatigue.
9. The Tour Tiger Woods Left Is Not the One He Is Returning to
When Tiger Woods cut back on his schedule a couple of years ago for personal reasons, the tour was still his. Week in and week out, Tiger was the guy the media and fans expected to win.
When, or maybe if, Tiger returns, that will no longer be the case.
Tiger's dominance in the game is over. No longer will players shoot high scores out of fear.
And up until Rory's amazing performances in the Masters and U.S. Open, it seemed no one was willing to take Tiger's place as the games best player.
Well, this weekend, Rory did just that. Tiger will no longer be the go-to-guy. Instead, he may just be another player with multiple major wins.
10. Sergio Garcia Will Never Win a Major
In 1999, Sergio Garica chased Tiger Woods down the fairways at Medinah and finished second in the PGA Championship.
Eleven years later, Garcia is still waiting to win his first.
This weekend at Congressional, Garcia showed the golf world that he still has game left. Unfortunately that game will never be good enough to win a major.
His putter guarantees that. Garcia makes putts he isn't expected to and misses putts he is expected to. That is not a recipe for major wins.