240. Rory McIlroy – US Open Champion and UNICEF Ambassador

rory mcilroy us open champion congressional 2011 rorymcilroy comGolf is a sport which can make you humble.

Yet the new US Open champion had already learnt humility the hard way.

In April, Rory McIlroy led a major championship for the third time in a row, starting the last day of the US Masters with a four-stroke lead. That was before a spectacular Amen Corner collapse raised doubts if Rory could ever win a major.

rory mcilroy range work TPC sawgrass florida usa 2009 by ltbeyer flickrAfter all, his final round at Augusta only matched the score he had made in a gale at St Andrews last July, after opening up with a 63.

Scoring 80 twice when leading majors seemed to ask serious questions about Rory’s appetite for the fight.

Yet really, his fortitude should never have been in doubt.

rory mcilroy northern ireland us open champion 2011Because after such a disappointing second round, McIlroy quietly closed out the 2010 British Open with a 69 and 68 to finish third — the same position he finished in the US PGA last August, where he’d also led along the way.

After the Ryder Cup in Wales last autumn, the sports pages led with the decisive victory scored by his friend and predecessor as US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell.

But Rory’s tussle with Stewart Cink was even closer. Missing the final green in two, McIlroy contrived to leave his third in the bunker — yet somehow he gathered his composure to recover with a brilliant sand save to halve his match.

That took resilience — a quality Rory underlined hugely in Maryland this week.

But back to humility.

Perhaps it wasn’t McIlroy’s calm at Celtic Manor or Congressional, or even the stellar quality of his golf all year, which said most about the man himself.

rory mcilroy ireland unicef ambassador portauprince haiti 2011 c unicef dorminoBecause just last week, only days before the US Open, Rory McIlroy visited Haiti as the Ireland Ambassador for UNICEF.

How many other recent major contenders have given freely of their time for others much less privileged than themselves?

us open trophy congressional maryland 19 june 2011 by mcilroyrory twitterThe man has resilience, humility, charm and compassion. And those are the gifts of a worthy champion, in any age.

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