Mar 7 2012
Is Rory McIlroy the next “Tiger Woods”
This week Rory McIlroy became the 2nd youngest golfer ever to reach World #1. The youngest golfer to complete this achievement was of course Tiger Woods, the American was only 21 when he became the best golfer in the world in 1997.
On Sunday afternoon McIlroy had a 2 shot lead on 11 under heading into the final round of the Honda Classic on the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. After a weather delay affected the start of the final round it was Tiger Woods who was making a Sunday charge. Tiger was 4 under on his front 9 and had the chance to post a challenging total if he can negotiate the tough back 9 including the infamous ‘bear trap’.
McIlroy’s lead was cut to 1 after a early birdie from his nearest challenger Tom Gillis. Rory was the favourite though and he also carried the extra pressure of reaching the World #1 spot with a win at the Honda Classic. After Rory’s near miss the previous week losing in the final at the WGC Matchplay in Arizona, he didnt want to pass up another opportunity.
By the time Rory reached the back 9 he was still holding onto a slender 1 shot advantage on -12, however as he stood on the 12th tee he was 3 shots ahead of his nearest challenger.
A birdie on 17 from Tiger gave him the opportunity to pick up a further shot on the par 5 18th and post -9, you never know what can happen over the last few holes considering the recent comebacks this season on the PGA Tour. Standing in the 18th fairway Tiger Woods had 218 yards to go for his 2nd shot on the par 5.
Tiger hit his 2nd shot to 8 feet and knock in the putt for a miraculous Eagle and a final round 62, incredible golf from the former World #1 as he leaped frogged Tom Gillis into 2nd place outright and post a -10 total. Rory McIlroy entered the bear trap with a 2 shot lead over Tiger following a birdies on 8 and 13 and just the 1 bogey on hole 12.
The ‘Bear Trap’ includes the par 3 15th, par 4 16th, and par 3 17th holes at the PGA National Champion Course, each hole involves plenty of water and threatens to wreck every competitors scorecard. How these 3 holes are played generally have a bearing on who wins at the end of the week. Leading up to the final round Rory had played the final 4 holes in 6 under and the ‘bear trap’ in 1 under. A Even par final 4 holes would surely be enough for Rory and after negotiating 3 pars in the ‘bear trap’ McIlroy stood on the 18th tee with a 2 shot lead. By the time he reached the final green, Rory had 3 putts for victory and holed his 2nd for par from 4 feet.
Rory McIlroy’s latest victory also gave him the status of the World #1 golfer overtaking Englishman Luke Donald who didnt compete at the Honda Classic. At only 22 years of age, Rory potentially has the chance to maintain the position at the top for a very long time. How ironic that the only player to reach the #1 position at a younger age was Rory’s closest challenger on Sunday afternoon.
It’s no shock that the 22 year old has reached this position in such little time, Rory burst on to the scene at the Open Championship in 2007 at Carnoustie as a 17 year old winning the Silver Medal (highest finishing amateur). Later that year after turning professional Rory became the youngest player to gain full excemption on the European Tour.
In 2008, Rory finished 36th on the European Tour Order of Merit however was still searching his 1st Professional title. Rory didnt have to wait long and in February 2009 he picked up his 1st Professional victory on the European Tour at the Dubai Desert Classic at only 19 years old. By the end of 2009 Rory was ranked 9th in the world after a consistent season which yeilded 1 victory on the European Tour.
In 2010 he would pick up his maiden PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow Championship after a final round course record 62 to win by 4. This win also meant Rory became the next player after Tiger to win on the PGA Tour before the age of 21 and Rory finished the year 7th in the World Rankings.
2011 will be remebered for Rory’s performances in the first 2 majors of the year, at the Masters Rory suffered a final round collapse after starting the day 4 shots ahead he posted a 80 finishing in a tie for 15th.
However Rory responded in unbelievable fashion by shattering the US Open scoring record with 16 under and a 8 shot victory for his 1st Major title. Rory would also claim vicory twice more at the Shanghai Masters and Hong Kong Open and propell himself to number 2 behind Luke Donald in the World Golf Rankings.
The Honda Classic this week was Rory McIlroy’s 1st victory of the year, he is certainly the form man, in his last 7 events he has 6 top 5 finishes including 2 victories. If Rory can keep up this standard for the rest of the year you can see him picking him up at least 1 major and with the Masters a month away he will surely be the red hot favourite.
If Rory manages a victory at the Masters he would have 2 major titles at age 22 and Tiger didn’t win his 2nd major until he was 23. So if you compare there careers at age 22: Tiger Woods had 1 Major, 6 PGA Tour, 1 European Tour and 1 Asian Tour wins at Rory’s age. Rory currently has 1 Major, 2 PGA Tour, 2 European Tour and 1 other win to his name. So 1 Major a piece however 9 wins for Tiger at 22 compared to Rory’s 6, however Rory doesn’t turn 23 until May so could still add to his tally.
2012 is likely to throw in some surprises and i’m sure it will make intriging viewing, I predict Rory McIlroy will win a Major and finish the year as world #1, I think Tiger Woods will win again on the PGA Tour and get back into the World’s Top 10 but will have to wait a little longer until he gains his 15th major title.
I expect Rory McIlroy will go on to win multiple Majors and cement his position at the top of the tree for many years to come, however I think its a tough ask to expect Rory to catch Tiger’s major record. Rory certainly has the potential however with the influx of talented youngsters from all over the globe it makes this task even harder.
In the past 2 years in Major’s there had been 5 winners in there 20′s including: Rory McIlroy (22), Keegan Bradley (25) won in his 1st ever attempt at a major, Martin Kaymer (25), Charl Schwartzel (26), and Louis Oosthuizen (27) . If Rory does go on to dominate the next few years then it will make that achievement even more impressive.