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May 24, 2010, last updated February 22, 2013
By Rory McClenaghnan, Contributing Columnist and Editorial Staff of MangoBoss
In history empires rise and fall and the same is true in sport. No one
can deny that Tiger Woods has ruled over the world of golf since he
turned pro in 1996. It took him less than a year to win his first major,
The Masters. Since then he has added 13 more major championships to
his name, with just Jack Nicklaus outranking him, with a career total of
18. But now there's a new kid on the block, in the shape of 21-year-old
Northern Irishman, Rory McIlroy.
Woods' well-publicized difficulties in his private life have coincided with
the rise of the precociously talented McIlroy, but does the youngster
have the potential to be as good as Woods? Is Rory McIlroy the next
Tiger Woods? According to two-time major winner Mark O'Meara, the
answer is a resounding yes.
Speaking in 2009, Woods former mentor, O'Meara said: “Ball-striking
wise, Rory is probably better than Tiger was at that age. His technique
is better. Certainly Tiger has developed his game and modified his
swing over the years to be able to hit the ball pin-high, but Rory is
already doing that at 19. He’s kind of a step ahead.”
Article Continues Below.
An amazingly gifted amateur, McIlroy was the youngest player ever to
win the West of Ireland Championship and the Irish Close
Championship. At the age of just 18, he turned pro, two years earlier
than Tiger. One of the great things about Woods' game is the power he
can generate from his drive. Can McIlroy, four inches shorter, match
that? O'Meara doesn't see it as a problem.
“He hits it far enough, he is very composed and he has a great short
game. I can’t see any weaknesses or why he can’t win many major
championships. It’s hard to compare anyone with Tiger because of his
mind and heart, but certainly Rory has those qualities, there’s no
But golf is about more than just physical prowess. You can have a
powerful drive, an imaculate short game, perfect putting but still never
win a major, if you don't have the mental steel to hold it all together.
Although Jim Furyk, another top player, believes McIlroy has what it
takes in that department as well: "His maturity is what impresses me
most. When you are young like that, he is only going to get better and
better. It is scary what the potential is."
In the debate between the two there's a lot of talk about potential,
which is always a hard thing to gauge. So let's take a look at the facts
and compare the two at the same age. McIlroy has just turned 21 and
to date has two titles in the bank, the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and
the PGA Tour's Quail Hollow Championship in 2010. At the same age,
Woods had just one victory to his name, the Walt Disney
World/Oldsmobile Classic in 1996.
But the key thing to mention is that 21 was Tiger's breakthrough age,
the year he won the GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic, the Motorola
Western Open, and of course, The Masters. Winning a major
tournament is the true test of golfing greatness. Players of the calibre
of Sergio Garcia, another prodigy, have never managed it. Until McIlroy
can complete that feat, it is hard to compare him to Woods, one of the
greatest golfers of all time.
That's not to say Tiger isn't worried, speaking over a year ago he
revealed he'll be looking over his shoulder for the young man: "He has
all of the components to be the best player in the world, there's no
doubt. It's just a matter of time and experience, and then basically
gaining that experience in big events, that takes time, and I mean,
geez, he's only 19. Just give him some time, and I'm sure he'll be
On March 4, 2012 at age 22, Rory McIlroy won the Honda Classic in
Florida and became the Number 1 golfer in the world.]
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