2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Rory McIlroy vs. Brooks Koepka: Luck of the Northern Irish
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images. Pictured: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
Unbelievable! He catches the slope and it goes 400+ yards into the center of the fairway!!
If there was an equal and opposite reaction to McIlroy’s tee shot of nine years ago, it’s this one – a beautiful, high draw that is absolutely smashed down the right side of the 10th fairway that takes the slope and feels like it’ll never stop running.
It’s as if nearly a decade of built-up frustration, of resentment toward the one tournament he couldn’t win, of so many close calls, has been unleashed in a single effortless swing that produces an absolutely massive drive.
The beauty of Rory is that he’s human in the most endearing way.
Others would hit that same drive, with the same backstory, in the same situation, and offer no outward display of recognition. Not him. Rory watches his ball tumble almost a quarter-mile down the fairway, then arches his eyebrows just a touch, licks his lips and allows just the faintest of smiles to form. He not only knows his history on this hole, he knows his history in this moment and relishes exorcising a demon or two.
The spectators around you go nuts – or as nuts as you’re allowed at Augusta National.
You follow the crowd and make your way to the green, just in time to witness McIlroy launch a flip wedge – a flip wedge! – right at the back pin for yet another tap-in birdie.
He doesn’t simply walk off the green afterward. He struts, chest puffed out like he’s king of this jungle and nobody can knock him from this perch – a perch which right now happens to be atop the leaderboard.
Now that target score of 68 from the man with the Irish brogue feels like an understatement.
You’re certain Rory is about to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods as the sixth player to win the career grand slam. And you’re thrilled that you picked the right pairing on the first tee, deciding to capture history with your own eyes instead of hearing about it later.
The only question now, in your mind, is whether Rory limps home with the victory or steps on the gas pedal and puts his stamp on this one.
He answers that question pretty quickly and easily, adding birdies on 13, 14, 15 and 17 to post a back-nine 31– a full dozen shots better than his back-nine from nine years earlier – and win going away, a five-stroke differential over the next-closest competitor with a final-round 64.
You stay and watch as he receives his green jacket on the putting green after the Butler Cabin ceremony. It just looks right on him, as if it was always been meant to be.
As you’re about to leave, you see the man with the brogue again.
“You undersold him!” you say with a laugh at the man who, rightfully, as it turns out, predicted he would only need to shoot 68. “I kept meaning to ask you earlier: What did he say when you suggested that score to him?”
The man furrows his brow and looks quizzically at you for a few seconds.
“What did he say?” he repeats. “He didn’t say anything. I’ve never met the lad. I just shouted it a few times during the round.”
He starts to walk away, then turns and winks at you. “But,” he says, “I’m glad he didn’t listen.”