McIlroy not the 'Next Tiger Woods'

By Jason SobelAugust 13, 2012, 1:45 am

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Rory McIlroy is not The Next Tiger Woods.

You may be excused if you thought otherwise. It’s a simple mistake.

In the wake of McIlroy’s dominant, persuasive victory at the 94th PGA Championship, the comparisons come quick and easy, but they are two very different players, two very different people.

Rory smiles. A broad, gaping smile for anyone and everyone. He wants people to like him, tries his best to please others. Tiger has always been more brooding. His steely-eyed demeanor and unending focus were never intended to win friends and influence people.

Which is kind of ironic in a way. Rory may be wildly popular around the world, but he’ll never own the same cross-cultural significance nor inclusive impact as Tiger.

That’s only partly because they introduced themselves to us in different ways. Rory’s first chance to win a major championship evaporated on the back nine at Augusta National when he was 21. Just months after announcing, “Hello, world,” Tiger turned it into his personal playground at the same age.

No, Rory McIlroy is not The Next Tiger Woods.

But he does one hell of an impersonation.

Clad in a red shirt and firing at flagsticks, Rory looked unmistakably like Tiger throughout the entire final round, pulling away from the field to turn the back nine into yet another major-championship coronation.

From his ability to separate from the pack to a final-hole birdie punctuated by an exuberant fist pump, it was the stuff of Tiger in his prime major-winning years. Even the way McIlroy’s peers discussed the performance in wide-eyed awe and effusive praise was reminiscent of how Woods’ fellow competitors have often discussed his achievements after a major win.

Ian Poulter: “Everybody should take note. The guy's pretty good.”

Carl Pettersson: “He was just better than everybody -- and it was clear to everybody, I think.”

Graeme McDowell: “His score speaks for itself. He's a hell of a talented player.”

All of which leads to the burning question: So just why isn’t he The Next Tiger Woods?

It’s because he’s a little Jack Nicklaus. He can overpower a course from tee to green, owning an innate ability to step on the gas pedal and not let up until the final putt has dropped.

It’s because he’s a little Arnold Palmer – or Phil Mickelson, if you will. He attacks a course, his aggressive nature the reason for both his success and failure, but always a constant in his game.

It’s because he’s a little Greg Norman. When McIlroy lost the Masters in agonizing, embarrassing fashion last year, he didn’t hide from the cameras, instead handling the situation with grace and humility.

Mostly, though, it’s because no player should be saddled with the responsibility of having to be The Next anyone, especially if that title is followed by the name of a 14-time major champion.

“It's tough to say that Rory is a Tiger Woods type player,” said McDowell, a friend and fellow Northern Ireland native. “Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime type player, and Rory McIlroy is at least a once-in-a-decade type player. He's that good. I've been saying it for years how good he is.” 

We get it. McIlroy’s win on Sunday was his second major in the last seven and mirrored his eight-stroke differential from last year’s U.S. Open. It was the largest margin of victory in PGA Championship history, eclipsing Nicklaus’ seven-shot win in 1980.

That’s not even close to the most eye-popping statistic.

At 23 years, 3 months and 8 days, McIlroy becomes the sixth-youngest player to win a second major, trailing only Young Tom Morris, Gene Sarazen, Johnny McDermott, Seve Ballesteros and Nicklaus.

Not enough? Try this: He’s just the 13th player since 1950 to win majors in back-to-back years. Of the other dozen, 10 are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and two – Woods and Padraig Harrington – are destined for induction sometime soon.

Mention a comparison to Woods, though, and McIlroy blanches at the correlation.

“I don't know,” he said. “I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as he had. But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002 and won so many. You know, I'd love to sit up here and tell you that I'm going to do the same thing, but I just don't know.

“It's been great to win my first major last year and to back that up with another one this year; I can't ask for any more. I just want to keep working hard, keep practicing, and hopefully there's a few more of these in my closet when my career finishes.”

When his career does finish, when his shaggy hair has turned a light shade of gray and he’s gone from being a flatbelly to a potbelly, we can analyze whether McIlroy lived up to the standard set by Woods or even surpassed it.

That’s not for now, though. For now, any acknowledgment toward him being The Next Tiger Woods is premature and unwarranted.

He doesn’t need it anyway. Based on what we witnessed this week, it’s good enough simply being The First Rory McIlroy.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."