When Rory McIlroy won the Open and the PGA jersey

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The rain came late to Royal Birkdale, hours after the weathermen Michael Stone Jersey reckoned it would. They said the storm that swept across the south on Tuesday night would arrive around 11 in the morning. Then they pushed it back to two in the afternoon, then again to five in the evening.The diligent spectators kept their umbrellas furled and their anoraks packed through the morning and afternoon, while the air all around grew thick and sticky, everyone but the golfers grateful for the cool wind blowing in off the Irish Sea. But then, forecasting is a tricky business. Just ask the punters here. There are 156 http://www.officialarizonacoyotes.com/Adidas-Michael-Stone-Jersey players in the field and if you start counting the contenders among them you will soon run out of fingers. And toes.When Rory McIlroy won the Open and the PGA back-to-back in 2014, most fans imagined it was the start of his era. Turned out to be anything but. The following year, Jordan Spieth won the Masters and the US Open. So one became two. Then Jason Day and Dustin Johnson took turns at the top of the rankings. The big two became a big three, then a big four, and it is now a big many more. The last seven majors have all been won by first-time winners, a run that started with Day’s victory at the PGA in 2015, and continued with Danny Willett, Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker, and, this year, Sergio García and Brooks Koepka. It’s hard for the casual fan to keep up.Spieth said he could not even begin to name a “big four” in his sport. “I’m not sure who it would be if you asked me,” he said. “I think you look at a guy like Jon Rahm, how does he deserve not Denis Savard Jersey to be in a conversation like that?”Rahm, only 22, won the Irish Open by six shots a fortnight ago. “He did it two weeks ago at links golf. He destroyed the field. Won by six or seven, right?” Rahm, Spieth said, would not be among the first four guys you would pick if you were making a list, but then, after a performance such as that, how could you count him out? That strength in depth, Spieth said, is “pretty exciting” because “it speaks to the state of the game”.With the knowledge out there, the coaches, stats guys, you know way more about your game than you did 20 or 30 years ago Rory McIlroy McIlroy said something similar. “Golf is in a place right now where you have so many players playing really well.” That, he said, is “sort of where golf is at the moment, no one is really standing out and sort of taking it by the scruff of the neck”.Likewise, when someone asked Johnson whether http://www.officialchicagoblackhawks.com/Adidas-Denis-Savard-Jersey anyone could boss the sport as Tiger Woods once did he replied: “The talent level is so high on the PGA Tour that it’s hard to be that dominant.” A key difference between tennis and golf, Johnson explained, is that in his sport every player in the top 50 “has a really good shot” at winning the majors. Spieth agrees. “It could be anyone” who wins at Birkdale this week.McIlroy has been working on this problem for a while now. He thinks the advances in sport science have tightened up everything. Not just “the technology in the golf clubs and golf equipment”, but also “the technology with coaching, with TrackMan, with the knowledge out there, the coaches, the stats guys, you know way more about your game than you did 20 or 30 years ago, and everyone has access to that now. And that’s why the margins are so fine and that’s why you’re finding all these guys so closely grouped together because it’s so hard to find that little per cent or two per cent that separates you from the rest of the pack.”There is a story about Harrington that few outside Ireland will know. As a five-year-old he helped his father and his father’s colleagues Authentic Brian Propp Youth Jersey in the police build a golf course in the foothills of the Dublin mountains. Years of diligent practice on that Stackstown course helped Harrington become the golfer – and the man – he is today.“My dad was a policeman and he realised that for the young Garda coming to the city there were no facilities,” he says. “And, to be honest, back in the early 70s they weren’t considered the right people for golf. So he and others helped build Stackstown.”Harrington Jr, along with other members of his family, was a willing helper. “There were two quarries on the course so a lot of stones had to be cleared,” he says, wryly. “I remember myself as a five-year-old being out there levelling sand on the greens – and anyone who knows Stackstown knows there is plenty of slope on the greens so we didn’t do that good a job!”Between them Harrington and Rory McIlroy have helped make golf in Ireland popular and cool but he knows it was not always that way. “These days the courses in Ireland are very busy and full of juniors,” Harrington says, “but when I was growing up you didn’t tell anyone you played golf. You’d get bullied for that at school. Nowadays the kids love it.”The picture in Britain is not as rosy. It is a statement of fact not prophesy that fewer people will watch the Open at Birkdale than the 4.7 million who were transfixed by Harrington’s 2008 triumph. Last year Sky got 1.1 million viewers for its Bafta-winning coverage of the shootout between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Troon – highly impressive for a subscription TV channel but still an inevitable decline. The BBC will show the US PGA Championship this year but for golf to prosper, it needs to be shown on terrestrial television more regularly.The consequences of the almost full retreat from terrestrial TV coverage will probably only reveal themselves slowly but it is safe to assume that no matter how polished Sky’s presentation, or deep its pockets, (they are rumoured to be paying £15m a year for the rights) fewer fly-by viewers will watch in future. And that will have knock-on effects on the numbers lured into the sport.Yet how many converts to golf arrived in that steamy summer of 1976, when a 19-year-old Seve Ballesteros, oozing dash and dare, led the Open at Birkdale after 54 holes before slipping back by shooting seven over par in the first 12 holes on his final round? Almost anyone else would have faded away in shame; instead Ballesteros enthralled a new generation with three birdies and an eagle on the final six holes to tie with Jack Nicklaus for second, behind Johnny Miller.


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