Rory McIlroy has the U.S. Open trophy. And if he needs any more affirmation, he’s also got the seal of approval from Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus and McIlroy struck up a friendship over the last couple years when the Northern Irishman went to see The Golden Bear for tips on the game, notably, how to win at the majors. The Bear, who knows a little something about good golf swings, said the 22-year-old has the kind of swing that can hold up over time. It certainly held up Sunday, over a closing round 2-under 69 that helped McIlroy break the U.S. Open scoring record that Nicklaus shared with Woods and two others. “His rhythm is so beautiful, his tempo, it just stays the same all the time,” Nicklaus said. “He doesn’t try to kill it, doesn’t try to do anything unusual with the golf ball. He hits it a little harder at times when he wants to put a little power in it and I think that’s fine.” Nicklaus was 22 when he won the first of his 18 majors in 1962 — three months older than McIlroy is now. Their most recent discussion came last month, while McIlroy was still reeling from his collapse at the Masters.
, where he took a four-shot lead into the final round but shot 80 and finished 15th. Nicklaus said he didn’t really give McIlroy advice, but instead asked if he’d learned anything from his mistakes.
“He said, ’Yeah, I think I did,”’ Nicklaus said. “I said, ’Well, make sure you did, because the next time you get yourself in that position, you’ve got to remember what you did and what you didn’t do and remember what you want to do and go do it.’ ”
As the week at Congressional progressed, McIlroy never shied away from talking about his mistakes at Augusta. In fact, he embraced the experience, used it as a learning experience. After getting a big lead going into the weekend, he didn’t look back.
“You sit down with the most successful player that’s ever lived and for him to say that he expects big things from you, that you should embrace the pressure, those are great things to hear from someone like him,” McIlroy said. “To be able to come out this week, and after what he said to me, and put a little bit of that into practice so early is a nice feeling.”
Even before he had closed out his win, McIlroy was answering questions about becoming a multiple major winner. Padraig Harrington was predicting he might someday eclipse Nicklaus’ record.
McIlroy is the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923, and Nicklaus says there’s some pressure taken off by winning the first one at such a young age.
“I hope he understands he is a golfer first,” Nicklaus said. “He will be and already is a celebrity, but he is a golfer first. Right now he is a very good golfer, but if he wants to be a great golfer, he needs to learn how to deal with it and learn how to handle all the things on the side.”
Athlete of the week
Red Deer’s Adam Ross scored once and assisted on another goal Sunday as Canada fell 6-4 to Slovenia in the world inline hockey championship in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Ross recently graduated with a communications degree from Merrimack University. The defenceman, who earned his NCAA Division 1 scholarship while playing with the Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL, was the captain of the Merrimack Warriors during his final season. He currently lives and trains in Boston.
• Senior men’s baseball: Printing Place at Lacombe Stone & Granite, 7 p.m.; North Star Sports at The Hideout/Del Rohn, Gary Moe Volkswagon at Sylvan Lake, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park 1 and 2.
• Men’s ball hockey: Little Caesar’s vs. Bo’s, The Wild vs. On-Side Restoration, 9:30 p.m., Kin City.
• Women’s fastball: Firefly Fusion at Badgers, Topco Oilsite Panthers at Budal Ice, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park 1 and 2; N. Jensen’s Bandits at Lacombe, 7 p.m.; Stettler at Rage, 8:45 p.m., Great Chief Park 1.
• Parkland baseball: Red Deer at Olds, 7 p.m.
• Senior men’s baseball: North Star Sports at Sylvan Lake, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park 2.
• Sunburst baseball: St. Albert Tigers Black at Red Deer Riggers, 7:30 p.m., Great Chief Park.
• Women’s fastball: Rage at Firefly Fusion, Badgers at N. Jensen’s Bandits, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park 1 and 2; Budal Ice at Stettler, 7 p.m.; Lacombe at Topco Oilsite Panthers, 8:45 p.m., Great Chief Park 1.
• Sunburst baseball: Beiseker at Olds, 7 p.m.
• Senior men’s baseball: The Hideout/Del Rohn at Printing Place, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park 2.
• Sunburst baseball: St. Albert Tigers Orange at Red Deer Stags, 7:30 p.m., Great Chief Park.
• Rodeo: Sundre Pro Rodeo, 6:30 p.m.
• Parkland baseball: Lacombe at Red Deer, 7 p.m., Great Chief Park; Innisfail at Eckville, 7 p.m.
• Major women’s soccer: Edmonton Victoria at Red Deer, 8 p.m., Great Chief Park.
• Junior B tier 2 lacrosse: Okotoks at Innisfail, 8 p.m., Innisfail Arena.
• Junior B tier 2 lacrosse: Strathmore at Red Deer Revenge, 8:30 p.m., Kinex.
• Sunburst baseball: St. Albert Tigers Black at Red Deer Stags, doubleheader games at noon and 3 p.m.
• Parkland baseball: Carstairs at Rocky Mountain House, doubleheader games at noon and 3 p.m.
• Rodeo: Sundre Pro Rodeo, 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
• Major women’s soccer: Lethbridge at Red Deer, 2 p.m., Great Chief Park.
• Junior B tier 2 lacrosse: Lethbridge at Red Deer Revenge, 4:30 p.m., Kinex.