The 2023 Masters
The 2023 Masters approaches, and in my mind there is only one storyline: Rory McIlroy.
Sure - Scottie repeating puts him in rare company (Jack, Faldo, Tiger). Rahm adding a green jacket to his US Open trophy is a big deal. JT tacking a Masters onto his two PGA's would be huge. Spieth finding the magic again would be awesome. A LIV player winning would be...interesting. A Xander, Cantlay, Burns, Homa, or Sungjae win - all good stories. But this Masters can only be made historic by one player - Rory, and here's why...
Every year that goes by, it only gets harder for Rory to win The Masters. He wants it more, the world wants it more, and the difficulty increases. His "easiest" chance to win The Masters went by the wayside in 2011 with that pull-hook into the Cabins. Every year after that it's gotten harder and harder. And it's not his fault. It's the nature of the game. Rory is an incredibly clear thinker, his attitude and mental approach to golf are probably a 98/100 (with only Tiger scoring 100). Combined with his insane physical talent, it's the reason he's been the best player of the post-Tiger era. But there is no replacement or way to recreate that raw naivety, irrational confidence, and blissful ignorance of youth. Rory won majors running away in his early years. Spieth stacked up 3 majors boom boom boom. Brooks peeled off 4 majors in what seemed like 8 weeks.
But winning majors only gets harder. It makes what Phil did more impressive - winning his 6 majors starting in his 12th year on Tour. It makes what Paddy Harrington did more impressive. It makes Spieth's return to form more impressive. It's what you do after you realize how hard the game is that really impresses.
You can probably count on one hand the number of people alive who can relate to the pressure Rory will feel as he tries to win the 2023 Masters. I can't comprehend it - but I know that if he does pull it off it will be one of the greatest wins in golf history. To complete the career Grand Slam and earn a forever seat at golf's greatest dinner party - and to do it at this point in his career under infinite pressure - would be truly remarkable.
I hope he does it - I know that he's still young and still near/at the top of the game, but golf is fickle. You need 10 things out of 10 to be right to win majors, 9 just isn't enough in today's game. And at the moment, it seems like all the pieces are there. Rory is healthy, something we all take for granted in athletes until it's no longer true. And he's playing great - he really seems to have found something with this new putter, which is usually all Rory has ever needed to win: just make a few putts.
So we'll see. It's the Masters - no matter what happens we'll all be soaking up every minute. But I have a feeling this could be one for the ages...another '86 or '97.
The 2023 Masters could be where Rory becomes a LEGEND.