With Tiger being injured and his future uncertain, golf needed to get some sizzle back and it appears that Mcllroy will help in that regard. He annihilated the field at the US Open earlier this month, played at Congressional Country Club in Maryland, with a dominating performance of -16 under par.
His stellar performance came on the heels of one of golf’s biggest chokes – Rory’s Masters implosion in April. After three and a half rounds of great golf, who will ever forget that day at Augusta, beginning at the 10th hole, when Rory hit a horrible drive that essentially sealed his defeat? He had a triple bogey and his Masters opportunity evaporated.
What’s refreshing about Rory is that he gained strength from that crushing loss and came out cool as a cucumber (and remained that way) for 4 rounds at the US Open. I was impressed as I never thought he would come back so strong. From humiliation at the Masters to slaughtering the entire field at the US Open says much about his demeanor despite his tender age of 22.
Keep in mind that Tiger never had a collapse remotely close to Rory’s in his entire career. What he did do was run away from the field at the 1997 Masters when he was younger (age 21) than Rory is now.
Will Rory be the next Tiger? I don’t think so. It’s understandable that golf fans and the media want some new pizzaz as TV ratings and tournament attendance suffer tremendously when Tiger isn’t playing. The pressure on this kid to try and fill that gap isn’t something I would wish on anyone.
Tiger’s 14 Majors at age 35 sets the bar too high. Does he have a chance to win multiple majors? Certainly. His performance in the last four Majors speaks for itself and shows that he is ready for prime time. Rory finished T3 in the 2010 British Open and PGA Championship. The Masters was a disaster but he came back strong to win the US Open.
Is he capable of being the next golf superstar? Absolutely. Some of his peers rave about his game in ways that sound similar to the old Tiger.
Here’s what Graeme McDowell (last year’s US Open Champion) said about Rory:
(It’s important to note that Graeme is one of Rory’s best friend’s and he hails from the same country, Ireland)
He's the best player I've ever seen,” McDowell said.
“I didn't have a chance to play with Tiger when he was in his real pomp, and this guy is the best I've ever seen, simple as that.
“He's great for golf. He's a breath of fresh air for the game and perhaps we're ready for golf's next superstar.
“And maybe Rory is it.”
I never thought I would see another young person dominate a Major like Tiger did in 1997 although Rory has only won 1 Major Championship. In addition, he pails in comparison to Tiger’s results after his first 100 tournaments. The facts:
This was McIlroy’s 100th tournament as a professional on the US and European tours. He has three wins. After 100 tournaments, Woods had 28 wins and almost twice as many top-10n finishes.
Not everyone is as thrilled about the crown being thrust upon Rory. Several golfers wrote interesting comments to me, with most being irritated at the media for the Tiger comparison after one big win. One comment is below:
Comment from "country club" golfer:
I readily admit that my thoughts on Rory McIlroy's win are "uncharitable", but i cannot help but think of Gerry Cooney as I watch the adoration and hope that is happening now. Rory seems like a great kid and a good golfer, but all of this excitement and comparison to Tiger seems to be fueled by the desire of the media (and all of my golfing buddies at my club) to find the anti-Tiger. Maybe 10 or 12 years of sustained excellence might warrant comparisons, but right now Rory is on a list that includes Louie Ouisthaven, Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel, Lucas Glover, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Stewart Cink, Angel Cabrera, Michael Campbell, Zach Johnson and Geoff Ogilvey.
Rory seems to be level-headed and appears to have a good team around him – two key elements for success in the precarious and tempting world of professional sports.
One thing is certain – Tiger’s quest to be the best isn’t any easier with Rory in the field. His presence should inspire Tiger to gain a better focus. If not, Tiger’s goal of winning 5 more majors may remain elusive.
Why Rory has a chance to be one of the greats in summed up by three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington. Despite Harrington being another Irishman, his comments are sensible and on point unlike the aforementioned Irishman:
“I think Rory has set himself apart now,” he said.
“There might be people capable of winning a major, but there's not too many people capable of dominating and running away from the field in a major.”
It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. Rory must stay grounded, focused and not let these silly Tiger Comparisons get the best of him. He should also know that it would be almost miraculous to do what Tiger did since 1997.
Let’s not forget about the longevity and excellence of Jack Nicholas, who won the most Majors (18), the last one at age 46. That record appears to be a struggle even for Tiger to reach now although I think he will surpass Jack before his career is over.
A couple of final points to ponder:
A) David Duval was #1 in the world in 1999 before Tiger began his assault on the record books. He won the 2001 British Open and was never the same after that huge win. His career Major Championship total = 1.
B) Todd Hamilton won the 2004 British Open and is now ranked 199th in the world. He is an afterthought in golf. His career Major Championship total = 1.
I believe we will see much better results from Rory in the years to come but he’s no Tiger (or Jack).
We need to allow him to be Rory.
Happy Gswede Sunday!