In 1997 when Tiger Woods won his first Masters we were all witness to what would become the greatest career in the modern era of golf. To date Tiger has won 97 times in his professional career, 14 being victories at the Majors. It goes without question that he is one of my all-time sports idols and second only to his Airness, Michael Jordan. However since losing in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship, Tiger has been in a slump both professionally and personally. Since his admission of infidelity in late ‘09, Tiger has not won a single PGA tour event or Major title.
With all the troubles surrounding Tiger, the world of golf has been looking for its next phenom. Enter Rory McIlroy, the young 22 year old from Northern Ireland. McIlroy has all the tools in his game to make him “the next big thing” in the golf world. The only mark against him to this point was his inability to win or close out tournaments. Before the start of the US Open, McIlroy had only won two total professional events since his debut in 2007. Add that to his collapse at this year’s Masters and it was clear to see he had a lot of growth left before he could truly be considered one of the games top stars.
As old saying goes, however, “you haven’t seen anything yet” and the 2011 US Open was evident of that. McIlroy would not be denied this time around as he dominated this years US Open from start to finish. His 16-under (65-66-68-69) broke Tiger’s previous record of 12-under par in the US Open. He smiled the whole final round as victory was inches away and the crowd chanted his name at every turn. Then after sinking his final putt, he embraced his father knowing that he had just given him an incredible Father’s Day gift.
It is way too soon to crown him the next king of golf while the current king rebuilds his throne. Tiger is the king, all be it an aging king with the battle scars and war wounds to prove it. McIlroy is the young, brash upstart who now has three total career victories to boast about. I’m not saying he cannot become one of the greats, I just think it is way to soon to start talking about him winning the grand slam and things of that nature. Let me throw out a couple of names: David Duval, Justin Leonard, Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood. All of these men were pegged to be the multi-time Majors winners, but combined only have two victories total in the events.
To fully evaluate McIlroy, I will give him the rest of this season and next to determine if he is truly the heir apparent to the throne. If he can win at least one more Major and some other PGA tournaments, then I will consider him to be the superstar to carry the golf world into its next era. So Rory, your mission if you chose to accept it, is to continue winning and prove you are a force in the PGA.
Remember the golf world, your parents, and Shane McMahon are watching.