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Takes a Champ to Know a Champ

Rory McIlroy pays tribute to fellow tour champion Happy Gilmore, gold jacket and all

September 01, 2021

In 2019, Rory McIlroy capped one of his greatest seasons as a pro—including a Players Championship, 14 top 10s, and nearly $8 million in prize earnings—with a dominant victory at the Tour Championship, capturing the FedEx Cup. The win was another notch on the belt for a player who has just about everything (except a Masters, of course) and also put him in some elite company.

Namely that of Happy Gilmore.

23 years before McIlroy’s triumph at East Lake, Mr. Gilmore claimed his first, final, and entirely fictional Tour Championship title. On Wednesday, McIlroy, bedecked in a gold jacket, replica Calamity Jane putter in hand, paid tribute to his fellow champion in an amusing meeting of reality and unreality. Check it out.

“I just want to say thanks for all the laughs you’ve given us over the years,” Gilmore says, addressing an absent Sandler. “‘Happy Gilmore’ is one of my favorite movies. You’re awesome. I’d love to meet you one day.” The camera then zooms in on Happy Gilmore’s honorary clubhouse locker, inscription and all.

As far as Happy Gilmore tributes go, it’s pretty low energy. Overall there’s a feeling of “Sandler said he was coming and then bailed.” But it’s still fascinating to see tour pros treating the '90s comedy with the same reverence as a major championship. Not even ‘Caddyshack’ gets that treatment and it’s proof, as the years pile up and legacies solidify, that Happy Gilmore is the greatest fake Tour Champion of all time.