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PGA Tour Confidential: Rory McIlroy wins 2011 U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy, 2011 U.S. Open champion
Fred Vuich/SI
Rory McIlroy won his first career major title at the U.S. Open.

Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Welcome to the Greater Milwaukee/U.S. Open version of PGA Tour Confidential. Record-setting performance by Rory McIlroy. So which was more impressive, Rory in 2011 or Tiger Woods at Pebble in 2000?

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger was 12 under and won by 15. He was the only player to finish under par. The second place finishers were three over. This was a great win for Rory and the sport, but it didn't meet the USGA's own standard for its biggest championship.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Rory didn't just meet the USGA standard. He exceeded it. That was a ball-striking clinic.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I talked to Ryan Palmer in the locker room about this very subject. He raised it, actually, and said he thought Tiger's was more impressive.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Different conditions, different times. Tiger at Pebble was about Tiger at the peak of his powers. Rory at Congressional was about an emerging star at the vanguard of a new generation of players.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger. He won by almost twice as much. Enough said.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The math tells the story, as a 15-stroke margin was unprecedented. But Tiger was already a multiple major champion with a long resume. For this to be Rory's first major victory is pretty mind-blowing.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Good as Rory was, Tiger at Pebble raised the bar so high that nobody could even see it. But I found Rory's performance more satisfying on several levels.

David Dusek, deputy editor, I think the course at Pebble Beach was more stout, but Rory's performance is just amazing. I'll give the nod to Rory because coming off his meltdown on the back nine Sunday at Augusta, he showed serious resiliency. Tiger already had two majors on his mantle and no scar tissue on his brain when he won at Pebble.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger at Pebble Beach gets the nod. Twelve under par on a course that kicked everyone else's rear end was more amazing than 16 under on a course where scores were unusually low. That said, Rory's win is also one for the ages.

Shipnuck: Rory's ball-striking is insane. In the last 11 months he's now torn up the Old Course (63), Augusta National (65) and the U.S. Open (-16). Long, high and straight plays anywhere. And even his misses are good, usually only a few paces off the fairway. Tiger and Phil have trouble keeping it on the planet.

Morfit: Johnny Miller told me this week that he was happy to see a pure ball-striker at the top, as opposed to Phil Mickelson getting it done with mirrors, but I suppose as wild as Tiger's been, he could have included Woods in that backhanded compliment.

Garrity: Rory will be a different kind of superstar. Nicklaus and Tiger hit shots that no other player could hit. Rory doesn't do that; he just plays better than the rest of the field. If he dominates, he'll dominate the way Tom Watson did, or Annika Sorenstam.

Tell us what you think: Which performance was more impressive: Rory in 2011 or Tiger in 2000?

Gorant: Lots of things to like about Rory — swing, short game, putting stroke, personality — what do you like best about him?

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: If I have to narrow it down to just two, swing and personality.

Godich: His pace of play.

Herre: I love his pace of play. Did you notice that Rory didn't mark his ball on EVERY SINGLE PUTT, like a lot of pros do because they are slaves to some silly, time-wasting routine? Plus, he's likeable and seems genuine.

Morfit: I love that Rory is actually happy, and he seems like he would be happy no matter what he did for a living. I like his swing, which is so fluid and rhythmic it seems like he has fewer bones in his upper body than the rest of us.

Garrity: Don't make me choose. I'd have to say his personality — the openness, the lack of pretense. If I didn't know he was Irish, I'd say he was from Kansas City.

Dusek: I love how approachable Rory is, how much we know about him not only as a golfer but as a person. He communicates with the media and the fans naturally, and I think sincerely.

Evans: Rory has a great golf swing. His combination of great hand-eye coordination, wonderful fundamentals and effortless power will set him apart from the pack for the next several years.

Morfit: Farrell, that's the big question I have now, is whether it really will or not. I thought he was off to the races after his final-round 62 at Quail Hollow, but it didn't work out that way. This is definitely much bigger, though.

Evans: Rory could be as big as Greg Norman. I say Norman because no one has ever been straighter and longer with the driver than the Shark.

Shipnuck: Bigger than Norman, because he has a much better head, or so it appears.

Lipsey: Winning won't make Rory bigger than Norman. Shark was and still is so huge because of who he is and also because he lost so much, and Shark's losing will be more memorable than Rory's winning, unless Rory wins a zillion majors.

Van Sickle: Off the course, Rory is everything that Tiger isn't: normal, friendly, easy going, relaxed, down to earth and just plain nice. A fan-friendly and media-friendly future No. 1 in the world would be a nice upgrade for golf. There's a lot to be said for a No. 1 player you can root for, not just be amazed by.

Tell us what you think: What do you like best about McIlroy?


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