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At age 25, Rory Stacks Up Favorably to the Game's Former King
Jack Nicklaus once said of Tiger Woods that he "could win as many Masters as Arnold (Palmer) and me combined." That's 10 green jackets, if you're counting.
Earlier, this week, the Golden Bear made similar comments about the heir to Tiger's throne atop the world of golf. "I think Rory (McIlroy) is an unbelievable talent," Nicklaus said. "I love his swing, I love his rhythm, I love his moxie. He's got a little swagger there, it's a little bit cocky but not offensive. I like that. I like the self-confidence in a young man. He's got an unbelievable amount of speed in his golf swing, he obviously hits the ball a heck of a long way. And he hits in there consistently and how he controls it. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing."
After a thrilling PGA Championship win in the gathering gloom at Valhalla Golf Club, McIlroy is well on his way to making a prophet out of the course's architect. After earning his fourth major championship at age 25, McIlroy has earned his comparisons to a young Tiger and a young Nicklaus — the only two men of the modern era to win major No. 4 at a younger age.
Like Woods, McIlroy has now won majors in every conceivable way — comfortably (two eight-shot wins) and in grind-it-out fashion (yesterday's nerve-rattling march to the Wanamaker Trophy). He's also won a major in a way Tiger never has — by making a final-round charge from behind. Rory made the turn on Sunday facing a three-shot deficit, with the players in front of him (specifically Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson) eliciting pine-rattling roars from the record galleries. But on 10, needing a jump-start, McIlroy pulled a Tiger-esque rabbit out of his Nike cap, drilling a 3-wood laser within 10 feet on the difficult par 5 and calmly draining the eagle putt. From there, it was a (literal) sprint to the finish for McIlroy, who posted a back-9 32 and a 16-under par finish.
With the Woods era seems to be truly on the wane, it's time to anoint a new king. Science tells us that nature hates a vacuum, and with four major championship wins at age 25, McIlroy is more than ready to fill the void that Tiger has left at the game's apex. And more than that, Rory looks likes he could be the kind of historic force in the game that Woods was. His win delivered the kind of ratings bonanza once reserved for Tiger in his prime. In fact, the 2014 PGA earned the tournament's best ratings since Woods' loss to Y.E. Yang in 2009 — in retrospect, possibly Tiger's last gasp in major championship golf.
McIlroy wisely continues to dismiss all the talk about chasing down the major totals of Woods (14) and Nicklaus (18). He’s just enjoying the moment.
“I'm on a nice track at the minute and I'm on a nice path,” he said. “I've still got a long way to go, but to be in their company at this age is very special.”
Rory's reluctant to make the comparison, but we're not. Here's a look at Tiger and Rory at similar points — Tiger through the 2000 PGA Championship, which he also won at Valhalla in a spirited duel with Bob May, and Rory following yesterday's win for the ages. Clearly, Tiger's breathtaking run at the dawn of the 21st Century will be impossible for anyone to replicate, but Rory's on his way to a legendary career of his own.
Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods Career Comparison (Through Their PGA Championship Wins at Valhalla)
|Tiger Woods||Rory McIlroy|
|Tournaments won (worldwide)||24||15|
|Cumulative winning margin in majors||37 strokes||19 strokes|
|Major top 5s||8||7|
|Major top 10s||11||10|
|Total weeks at No. 1 in the World||121||41|
|Largest winning margin in major||15 strokes||8 strokes (twice)|
|Lowest scoring avg. for a season||67.79 (2000)||68.87 (2012)|