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His Future Expands

by Brian Hewitt

You cringed late Saturday when Rory McIlroy talked openly about what winning the Open Championship on Sunday would mean. It would be the third leg of the career Grand Slam, he said. It would serve as a great storyline for next year’s Masters, he added.

And when Sergio García had shaved four strokes off McIlroy’s six-shot overnight lead after a nervous McIlroy bogey on the final round’s 13th hole, you cringed some more.

McIlroy, you see, is impossible to dislike mostly because he is so refreshingly genuine. Even if you don’t pull for him, it’s hard to summon the animus to root against him. So you wondered if his Saturday remarks were premature.

Now that he has conquered Royal Liverpool you wonder what, if anything, can stop him from returning to the top of the world ranking.

His victory at Hoylake was wire to wire. And his free-flowing full swing, complemented by a tidy short game and the week’s best putting stats were, with few exceptions, comprehensively brilliant.

García, still majorless at 34, and Rickie Fowler, perhaps Butch Harmon’s best work yet, tied for second.

The week for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson went not so well. Mickelson, still looking for his irst 2014 top-10, inished T23. Woods, looking disinterested at times, failed to break par in any of his final three rounds, and wound up 69th of the 72 Sunday inishers.

All of which further complicates the decisions hurtling toward U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. Neither Woods nor Mickelson ranks among the automatic qualifiers.

In two tournaments since returning from back surgery, Woods has shown virtually no form. He is running out of time.

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