World No 1 and newly crowned US PGA champion Rory McIlroy accepts that comparisons with Tiger Woods are inevitable now that he’s won his second major.
“I think it is only natural,” he told Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte on Sunday. “Tiger and I have won two majors at the age of 23. Of course there are going to be comparisons, I know that and I feel I am better equipped to deal with those comparisons and deal with the scrutiny I might come under over the next few months.”
Guess what, they’ll be playing together next week.
We didn’t have to wait long to see the new world order up close for the first time since the opening rounds of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, when they played in the same three ball for the first three rounds. Woods won their mini duel by three, 70 69 66 to McIlroy’s 67 72 68, before Rory eventually finished tied second to Tiger’s third.
We thought we might have to wait until the Ryder Cup to see them go toe to toe. But the mathematics are such that two biggest names in the game are guaranteed to play together for the first two rounds of next week’s opening FedEx Cup play-off event, The Barclays at Bethpage State Park’s formidable Black Course.
It’s the 13th time this season that they will tee it up in the same event and so far the balance is favourable for McIlroy, who has finished ahead of his boyhood idol seven times, winning the event twice.
Woods has had the upper hand on four occastion claiming the Memorial. Their only tie came at Augusta, where they were 40th.
Rory and Tiger in 2012
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Rory 2nd (-12) Tiger T3 (-11)
- WGC - Accenture Match Play Rory 2nd Tiger T17
- Honda Classic Rory WIN (-12) Tiger T2 (-10)
- WGC - Cadillac Championship Rory 3rd (-14) Tiger WD
- Masters Tournament Rory T40 (+5) Tiger T40 (+5)
- Wells Fargo Championship Rory T2 (-14) Tiger MC (Even)
- The Players Rory MC (+4) Tiger T40 (-1)
- The Memorial Rory MC (+6) Tiger WIN (-9)
- US Open Rory MC (+10) Tiger T21 (+3)
- The Open Rory T60 (+8) Tiger T3 (-3)
- WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Rory T5 (-8) Tiger T8 (-4)
- US PGA Rory WIN (-13) Tiger 11th (-2)
Summary Rory 7 (2 wins), Tiger 4 (1 win), Tied 1
So what can we expect of McIlroy and Woods going forward? One thing is certain, he’s not fazed by the prospect.
“Whenever it clicks, it’s hard for anyone else to live with.”
If he has his A game with him in New York, he knows he’s untouchable. As he told Golf Channel:
“It’s certainly looked that way a couple of times in the past 12 months. When I get on a roll like this and I am playing good golf, I feel I am very hard to beat. I’ve been fortunate that the two weeks that my game has been really on has been two major championships and I’ve run away with it. It’s a nice feeling to know that whenever it clicks, it’s hard for anyone else to live with.”
Of course, there are eight months to go before they will be playing for anything truly significant apart from the $10m FedEx Cup bonus money. The Masters is a long way away yet for the first time in his career, McIlroy is thinking about making his mark on the history books by claiming the third leg of a career Grand Slam that has only been completed by five players: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods.
“Now that I have won the US Open and the PGA, I have got two more to go for the Grand Slam. That would be incredible. It’s something I have never really thought about but after today it might just be on my radar a little bit more.”
Padraig Harrington is also chasing the career Grand Slam, yet while only Graeme McDowell, Adam Scott and Ian Poulter finished ahead of him on the short list of players who made the cut in all four major this year, he’s disappointed that he didn’t manage a fourth win.
Writing on his blog, Harrington said:
“In the end it turned out that nobody had a chance of catching Rory - he was on fire on Sunday and even though Ian Poulter made a run at him early in the round it didn’t matter as Rory was making birdies himself. It was a fantastic win by him and to win two majors by eight shots is amazing. I’m sure, like myself, he wishes there was another major next week.
The other disappointing thing about last week is that I didn’t make any inroads in the Ryder Cup standings. I knew that I really needed to win here this week to get myself into the team and so tied 18th is no good and so it looks like I am relying on a pick.
However, overall I had a good majors year and played well enough on the Sunday of both the Masters and the US Open to win. I have been told that I finished third in the overall scoring for the majors this year, which shows consistency, but I would rather have won one and missed the cut in the other three!”
Harrington optimistically hopes he can win The Barclays next week and persuade Jose Maria Olazabal that he deserves a pick. It will be an interesting sideshow to what promises to be a nerve-tingling week, for the first two days at least.