Followers of Rory McIlroy finally got what we’d been waiting for on Sunday when the world No3 claimed his first title of the season in fantastic fashion at the Irish Open.
Leading by just one going into the last three holes, and with a year of near misses and home crowd expectations weighing on his shoulders, Rory showed strength, courage and class to produce two of the finest shots you’ll ever see.
His 270-yard three wood into 16 was sublime, as good as it gets. Five yards either side and his chances would have been gone, but that bit of magic set up a wonderful two-putt and a birdie.
He was unlucky not to pick up another shot at 17, where his putt should have gone in, but made up for it with his second shot at the last: a 250-yard five wood to within 18 inches that was sheer perfection.
Wonderful though it is to play in front of a home crowd, it can also be tough. All that shouting and screaming can get to you if things aren’t going quite right.
But McIlroy summoned his best when it mattered, and it will have meant a lot to him to win in Ireland for the first time.
He has had some criticism and nobody likes that. Of course he’ll feel it, and it can get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
The thing is, there is such a fine line between Rory playing to perfection and not winning. He knew that with a couple of breaks he might have won three or four events already this year.
Sergio Garcia, meanwhile, showed a lot of balls to complete a great week for Europe by also opening his account for the year at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
The Spaniard found the water twice on the back nine but responded to every setback and beat Brooks Koepka on the first hole of a two-man play-off in Texas.
It was fantastic stuff from Garcia, who is one of those guys who seems to turn it on in a Ryder Cup year.
That win – his ninth on the PGA Tour – will boost his chances of making the team at Hazeltine in September and he could be a real asset for Europe in the Stateside contest, as he knows American courses so well.
This week could have a significant bearing on who qualifies for the team, with huge Ryder Cup points available at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Major winners Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell have both shown signs of form in recent weeks, so look like two to watch at Wentworth.
Masters champion Danny Willett has been disappointing since his Augusta victory but could benefit from being back on home soil, while Scotland’s Russell Knox pushed McIlroy hard in Ireland and looks to have the game to suit a course which favours straight driving over length.