The year was 1997 and a man named Tiger Woods was approaching the 18th green at Augusta. Although only 21 years old, Tiger walked differently than most. He walked confidently. He walked with swagger. He walked like he knew what he was doing. Woods may have not known it then, but he was going to be one of the best golfers of all time.
For the record, he won the 1997 Masters, his first major victory of his career, by 12 strokes. A record that he still holds today.
Fast forward 17 years later, and Woods is without a doubt one of the best golfers to ever play the game, but his time of being the most dominant golfer in the world is over.
The man next up in line? None other than 25-year-old Irishman Rory McIlroy.
The year was 2011 and McIlroy was in great position to win the Masters — leading by four strokes entering the final round. However, Augusta had a different plan for Rory. A horrible duck hook that went into someone’s backyard and a triple-bogey later, McIlroy no longer had the lead. He no longer had the confidence. And it was evident that he no longer was going to win his first major. At least not yet.
McIlroy would be back, though. And in a BIG way. His big comeback would come two months later at the U.S. Open. To make a long story short, McIlroy finished with a total of 268 strokes —16 under par — and won by eight shots. Not bad considering people instantly compared McIlroy’s dominance to Tiger’s dominance at the 2000 U.S. Open (considered one of the most dominant performances in golf history).
Tiger may still play this week at the 2014 PGA Championship, but that is irrelevant. Yes, Woods will once again get the taste of winning a major in his mouth. I believe that, Tiger believes that and basically every other Tiger-loving fan believes that.
The thing with Tiger is he is now labelled as “injury-prone.”
Since winning his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open, which was six long years ago, Woods has been sidelined for a good amount of majors. The problem lies with the fact that even though Tiger goes hard on the course, with his swing and everything else that factors into playing golf for basically 38 years, the game of golf has gone hard on Woods.
Tiger has been very unforgiving to the field over his career, and now it is starting to take a toll on his body.
Hate it or love it (thanks 50), Tiger will be a superstar until the day he gives up the game he loves. Whether if you agree or disagree with that, it really doesn’t matter. Woods’ 14 majors have garnered him that honor.
Tiger will be a superstar until the day he hangs up the metal-spiked golf shoes that are prohibited from many golf courses, but Rory McIlroy is happening now. The kid (kid compared to the likes of Phil Mickelson and Mr. Woods) has now won three majors. He didn’t do that as fast as Tiger, or Jack Nicklaus, but he is the third-youngest golfer to win three legs of a career Grand Slam. Bronze ain’t bad, folks.
McIlroy doesn’t even have to win this weekend. Heck, he doesn’t even have to finish in the top 10. Haters are gonna hate and lovers are gonna love, but when at his best, no one can argue that McIlroy is not better than everyone else. Even better than Tiger.
Golf needs a superstar and it needs that superstar now. That’s why this weekend, at the 96th PGA Championship, whether if Tiger plays, wins, withdraws or whatever it may be, the torch will unofficially be passed to the next great golfer, Rory McIlroy.
I say unofficially because Tiger is not going to give up. He will never give up. That is why he has seen a large amount of success. He is also not going to pat McIlroy on the back, bow his head, pass the symbolic torch over and then walk off into the sunset. Plus, there’s that chance Tiger doesn’t even play this weekend.
Whether if McIlroy likes it or not, Tiger will more than likely always be around. Heck, he could capture another major, or four. But the sport of golf is now Rory’s. He’s young, healthy, has a sound swing, a complete golf game and he’s the best in the world.
Although a new era in golf has started, McIlroy will never be the next Tiger Woods, just like no one will ever be the next Michael Jordan. I’m sure we can all live with that.