So now we get a glimpse of Life After Tiger, and good news, folks: Golf won't disappear from the cosmos whenever Tiger Woods limps away from the game for keeps.
Not as long as Rory McIlroy's around.
It wasn't just that the 22-year-old with the 10,000-kilowatt charm and radiant smile put on a show at Congressional this weekend unseen since the days when Tiger Woods had everyone in cringe mode from the moment he stepped to the tee. That was special enough -- seriously, has anyone but Tiger ever just absolutely crushed an entire field from flag-to-flag the way McIlroy did this weekend in the U.S. Open? -- but the way he did it, the style with which he carried it off, was perhaps the more telling point, and the more encouraging for the game as a whole.
We hear all the time that, without Tiger, golf's just a long walk in ugly pants by a bunch of two-legged logos, but now comes McIlroy, whose game is matched by a poise and charisma that, after years of watching Tiger throw clubs and strafe entire courses with f-bombs, was enormously refreshing. The kid from Northern Ireland won over a lot of us with the dignity with which he handled his nightmare unraveling in the last round of the Masters; this weekend, he won over the rest of the world with the sheer majesty of his game and his personality.
Golf hasn't had a bankable star other than Tiger in a long time. I think it just found one.