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Who’s There, Who’s Coming, and Who Doesn’t Belong

September 20, 2012

Features, Golf

The golf world has been given a gift over the past month; the gift of watching arguably the greatest golfer ever in Tiger Woods duel with golf’s newest superstar Rory McIlroy. A battle that many have been waiting on for a while.

McIlroy’s evolution from an up-and-coming player, to a bona-fide global superstar has been well documented, and rivals that of Woods.

The comparisons to Tiger Woods started off at a young age for McIlroy as he came out of Northern Ireland and onto the world stage, but until now the press and other players have been content to let him learn how to win and grow as a golfer.

That changed this week when former World Number One, Greg Norman was quoted in a foxsports.com piece:

“What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” he says. “When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never.” said Norman.

“But I think he knows his time’s up and that’s normal; these things tend to go in 15-year cycles.”

“Jack took it from Arnold (Palmer). I took it from Jack, Tiger from me and now it looks like Rory’s taking it from Tiger.”

When I first read this statement, I laughed. Not because Norman states that it’s now McIlroy’s time, it very well could be. Woods has struggled to close the deal in major’s this year, but has still won 3 times on tour.

Norman during his epic collapse in 1996.

I laughed at Greg Norman comparing himself to “The King” Arnold Palmer and the two greatest players to ever walk the face of the earth, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Norman was a great player in his time, he was world #1 for a stretch and did win 2 British Open Championships.

When you ask people to tell you the first thing that comes to mind regarding Norman, you’re going to hear about the monumental collapse at the 1996 Masters. Norman carried a 6 shot lead into the final round over Sir Nick Faldo. Norman shot 78 to Faldo’s 67 and lost by 5, and it wasn’t just a “bad day at the office,” it was choking at it’s finest.

If you remember watching or have a chance to watch a replay, you can see that the moment was too big for Norman from the first tee shot. When you think of Palmer, Nicklaus or Woods, you think of Legends of the game.

Norman doesn’t belong in this group, and he certainly didn’t take the torch from Nicklaus and pass it to Woods. It simply the most ridiculous statement I’ve read from a player.

So much so that one must figure it was nothing more than a shock comment to make him relevant again.

What’s really going on:

Is Woods really intimidated by McIlroy? I don’t think so, I think Woods realizes that Rory  has done very similar things to himself at such a young age. Seeing the way Tiger and Rory have interracted with each other over the last month, we have seen a new Woods. Their “bromance” is well chronicaled, Woods has been all smiles while playing with McIlroy, and the mutual respect can be seen by all those watching.

Is this intimidation? I think it’s more mutual respect, and for the first time, there is someone who’s stats compare to Woods’ at such a young age. I went through and looked at McIlroy’s through today at the age of 23. I then went and compared Woods’ record through age 23, and I was shocked at how similar the two are.

In comparison:

Since McIlroy played so many events on the European Tour early in his career, I combined those tournaments with his PGA TOUR events and compared those to Tiger’s:

McIlroy has 10 combined wins to this point on both TOUR’s, with two Major Championships. In 2011 he won the U.S. Open at Congressional by 8 shots, and more recently he won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by 8 as well. Rory became World Number One for the first time at the age of 22.

Prior to turning 24, Tiger won 13 times on the PGA TOUR, and also won 2 Major Championships. The 1997 Masters by 12 shots, and the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, host of next week’s Ryder Cup, by 1 shot over Sergio Garcia. He became World Number One at the age of 21, a record that still stands today.

The year of no comparison:

It is eery how similar their two careers have mirrored each other to this point, but before you get carried away with saying Rory can become the “Next Tiger Woods” just remember that the year 2000 was the greatest individual season in golf history.

At the age of 24 Tiger Woods won 9 times on the PGA TOUR, 3 of those were Major Championships. He won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots, still a record for the largest winning margin in Major Championship Golf. He followed that by winning the British Open at St. Andrews by 8, and closed the year out with a epic playoff victory over Bob May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club. Woods became the youngest player ever to complete the career grand slam, winning all 4 Major Titles by the age of 24.

Sometimes in sport, we get so caught up with comparing current stars to stars of the past. We are lucky that we get to see Rory and Tiger play together, in fact they are paired together this week at the TOUR Championship at East Lake. Let’s not forget to appreciate what McIlroy has done, and what he will do going forward, but let’s not be so quick to forget that we are living through an era where we have been lucky enough to watch one of the two greatest players to ever play the game, and if we’re lucky enough, we’re seeing another legend in the making.

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About travisdevlin

Sports blogger with an emphasis on NFL, Soccer and College Football. Will try to be as biased as possible, but as a fan I support the San Diego Chargers, Totteham HotSpurs and Notre Dame football.

View all posts by travisdevlin

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