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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Man bites off finger during golf course brawl

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:45 pm

PLYMOUTH, Mass. – A man has bitten off another man’s finger during a fight at a Massachusetts golf course.

WCVB-TV reports a 47-year-old man was arrested at the Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth Friday after he apparently got into a fight with another golfer and bit off a part of his thumb.

The station reports the victim’s thumb had been bitten off to his knuckle and he was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The incident happened around sunset.

The attacker was arrested and charged with mayhem. A police dispatcher declined to comment Saturday and Chief Michael Botieri didn’t immediately return a call seeking more information.

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Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.