SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – The job of caddying for a world-class player is far more joy than chore. When Rory McIlroy agreed to let me carry his bag back in June at the Memorial very few anticipated he would lap the field at the U.S. Open just two weeks later and alter his life significantly.
That day in Ohio was a reflection on his back-nine collapse at the Masters in April, but I left Muirfield Village believing he would be OK.
So, as we prepared to reconvene in Bermuda for another chapter of the nickname he bestowed upon me, 'Pin-High Gary', I wanted to know what was different about the reigning U.S. Open champion.
The answer came immediately. After a 24-hour flight from China, and without hitting a practice shot, McIlroy coasted around Port Royal Golf Club with an 8-under round, without a breath of stress. It was evident that Rory is not only comfortable with the obligation as a major champion; he is thirsting for much more. He loves his life and the immediate prospects of more time in the U.S. starting in 2012 have him feeling like it's the proper next step. He talks about his famous girlfriend (world No. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki) and their similar lifestyles and he has officially joined his first golf club, the Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla.
As for our latest chapter on the course, he was loose and feeling surprisingly fresh off seven days of golf around China and 24 hours of air travel. He hit so many quality shots that I felt like the one who had flown around the world, because my mind was spinning from the display of power and precision.
He just put new irons with new shafts in his bag and is hitting them a few yards farther. His ball flight and height make you think of one thing – Augusta National. He told me he has some 'unfinished business' at Augusta.
With that being said, perhaps the next chapter of “Pin-High” just might have me traveling down Magnolia Lane.