Friday, July 20, 2007

So an 18-year-old kid is near the top of the leaderboard after the first day at Carnoustie. What's all the fuss about?

With Irishman Paul McGinley making noise during a first-round 67 at the British Open, it was a fellow countryman, albeit one some 20 years younger, who may be the toast of all the Emerald Isle's golf fans this evening.

After an impressive bogey-free round of three-under 68, a curly-locked lad called Rory McIlroy sits in a tie for third place in a group that includes U.S. Open champ Angel Cabrera and 2005 winner Michael Campbell and one stroke clear of Padraig Harrington. He has put himself in early position to capture the hearts of youth-crazy golf fans much like Justin Rose did at Royal Birkdale in 1998 or Spencer Levin did at Shinnecock during the U.S. Open in 2004. And golf fans remember how Matt Kuchar stole the show with his father on his bag back in 1998, winning low amateur at both the Masters and the U.S. Open teasing fans with his charming "awe-shucks" smile. Need we forget about the scissor-kicking Spaniard who still has yet to capture his first major crown?

What is it about golf fans and their obsession for youth? Actually, knowing what I know about the British tabloids, it's tough for me to take seriously the love affair from the fans. They are probably rooting hard for the young man this week so they can see him come back in a few years and struggle to break 80. Then they will wonder what the hell happened to the kid in the first place.

And what is it about young players who reach a pinnacle at such a young age? History has proven that players, not named Tiger of course, who obviously played over their heads for a few days, have to come back to earth, and it is then that their resiliency is really tested. It seems playing so well in a major is more of a career curse, since they have to spend their early career trying to recapture the week's success. I mean logic would dictate if you can have a top finish in a major, you should be able to win a lesser tournament on a easier golf course as soon as you turn pro.

Unfortunately golf and logic aren't synergistic.

Rose, who was 17 at the time and turned pro the following week, struggled mightily right away before developing into one of Europe's best talents. Kuchar passed on his instant fame to return to college and found moderate success on Tour, but has been off everyone's radar for some time. And every golf fan will be glued to the television this weekend if Sergio and his new belly putter continue to make putts.

Odds are MclLory probably didn't sleep that much last night, and the law of averages says some bogeys are coming Friday. He may wake up in the middle of the back nine on Sunday with the chance to do something crazy or he may be going home Friday night. So many possible endings to the week for a kid that gets picked up for golf in Darren Clarke¹s private jet yet needs to ask permission to borrow the car keys.

Wait, now I understand all the fuss.

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