Guess it was inevitable – Rory dominated the US Open like nobody since Tiger Woods, so every headline writer and columnist is fumbling to creatively work Tiger Woods into their copy. McIlroy is 22; Woods was 24 when he wrecked the field at Pebble Beach in 2000. Will a casual web surfer or newspaper reader stop and dedicate 5-10 minutes to some freckle-faced golfer from Ireland? Maybe not. (What about “John McIlroy?” Nice blunder.) Might readers stop and ready if Tiger Woods were prominently mentioned? Sure.
His life changed because with the first majors victory of his career, McIlroy officially became The Next Tiger Woods. And he did it while The Present Tiger Woods still might have a few fist pumps left in him.
CBS News: Rory McIlroy the next Tiger Woods?
Dan Jenkins, the oldest (?) living golf writer: “I think Rory has the purest swing since Sam Snead. Was more of a fan of Tiger’s old putting stroke than his swing.”
Graeme McDowell a golfer who is from Ireland, in a Fox Sports article titled, “Don’t Call Rory the Next Tiger Woods:”
“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. 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.
Luke Donald, the No. 1 golfer in the world (heading into the US Open):
“I think he has probably the most talent I’ve ever seen from a golfer.”
It’s all very silly, of course – this was McIlroy’s first major. In the last seven majors, he’s had four Top-3 finishes, but he’s also famously gagged at the Masters, and missed the cut twice. The gushing seems to be a bit much though, doesn’t it? I read some of it – like the McDowell quote – as thinly-veiled shots at Tiger, who doesn’t seem to have many friends on the tour. I read some of the golf writers and thought, ‘they’re itching for the sport to be relevant again now, and comparing McIlroy to Tiger is the only move.’
As some have pointed out, the best case scenario for golf is Tiger to come back and continue to embrace the villain role (stand-offish in interviews, something of a prick in press conferences, smug), and make a run at McIlroy, who has a shot at being the kid everyone roots for because he’s humble, has an aw-shucks quality about it, and is also really, really good.
And that leads us to the question of ratings. The final round (1:30 pm – 7:45 pm) of the Open generated a 5.1, which wasn’t in the same galaxy as the 14.1 Tiger generated in 1997 when he won his first major, or even the 6.9 rating from last year (granted, last year’s Open was played on the West Coast, and the time difference certainly helped). The 5.1 yesterday matched the 2006 number – you may remember that US Open as the time Tiger missed the cut.