Daniel Reid’s opponent for the best 13 holes of golf he’s ever played was a friendly kid with freckles, curly hair and a bouncing walk.
Rory McIlroy looked pretty much the same then, long before becoming a two-time major champion.
The Utah Junior Golf Association proudly claims him, after he once spent a summer living with a family in Orem and playing a full tournament schedule as an 11-year-old from Northern Ireland.
That’s how Reid, a former BYU golfer working as a financial planner in Provo, could shoot a 77 in Sunday’s final round of the Burton Lumber Salt Lake City Open and find consolation in the exploits of a player he once beat 6 and 5 in a UJGA match at Murray Parkway Golf Course.
“Wow, how life works out,” marveled Reid, who added, “I’m happy where I am.”
So is McIlroy, whose eight-stroke victory in the PGA Championship concluded a year of major tournaments that produced vindication for him and a bunch of lost weekends for Tiger Woods. The 2012 pro golf season reinforced my two major beliefs about the game and its future:
Tiger will not match Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles and nobody will come close to Woods’ No. 2 ranking on that list, even if he remains stuck at 14 for the rest of his life.
But no, I did not have David Lynn finishing second in a major this year.
Even after McIlroy’s performance, the latest round of majors will be remembered for Tiger’s missed opportunities. His weekend scores were stunning, for the wrong reasons: 72-74 in the Masters, 75-73 in the U.S. Open, 70-73 in the British Open and 74-72 in the PGA. That’s a 72.87 stroke average, almost 2 over par.
Woods could have won any of those last three events, as opposed to McIlroy, whose tie for 40th in the Masters was his best showing until the PGA. But Tiger’s repeated failure to finish means he’s gone 18 majors (counting four he missed due to injury) without a victory, and it will be a long eight months for him until the Masters — even with some meaningful golf yet to be played this year.
The FedEx Cup playoffs begin next week with Farmington’s Daniel Summerhays, another UJGA alumnus, competing for the first time. Then comes the Ryder Cup in Chicago, with a revived McIlroy leading the Europeans.
But there’s nothing quite like the majors. For the sake of intrigue going forward, there could be no better winner of the PGA than McIlroy. One weekend is all it takes to steer the conversation away from fears of wasted potential and back to his promising future at age 23, now that he’s actually ahead of Tiger’s pace for major victories. Suddenly, nobody’s talking about his romantic pursuit of tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, only his chase of Tiger and Jack.
Of course, if recent history has taught us anything, it is that so many golfers are capable of winning majors these days, nobody will dominate like Tiger did. McIlroy has enough ability to keep winning a major every year, but that’s just not going to happen.
He’ll sure be fun to watch, though. Daniel Reid, who grew up in Orem as a son of Champions Tour player Mike Reid, will keep following the “really gracious kid” who lost to him in Murray. McIlroy was playing up in the UJGA’s 13-14-year-old division, partly explaining his resounding defeat, but Reid can gloss over that part of the story if he chooses.