He's winner off course
Rory McIlroy aspires to be more than Tiger Woods, and here's hoping he gets there. As a golfer, he's just as talented. "Such a fluid motion," Luke Donald marveled. Not that that means he'll get to 14 major victories. It has taken Phil Mickelson 20 years to win four. Ernie Els has three. And there are a mess of talented players (Davis Love III and Tom Weiskopf come to mind) who have only one.
Where McIlroy already has Tiger crushed is off the course. He doesn't surround himself with handlers who are really just paid goons. He won't screw up his life by impersonating Hugh Hefner. He won't hide from autograph-seeking fans. He won't foolishly try to change his swing every half dozen or so years.
He's grounded, he's normal and he's exactly what golf needs.
Great rivalry brewing
Rory McIlroy can become the new face of golf. He cannot become the new Tiger Woods. Woods earned his territory and history will retain it. McIlroy competes with incredible skill and matching grace. Woods competes with incredible — although diminishing — skill and matching intensity.
As a teenager, Nadal looked up to Federer. As a teen, McIlroy did the same with Woods. There doesn't need to be an either-or in golf when there might be a both. Two-star rivalries always outdo one-star parades.
On a similar path
For all of McIlroy's boyish appeal, it'll be tough to reach as broadly across racial and cultural boundaries as a young Woods did. Otherwise, the similarities are plentiful. Both were touted well before they turned professional. They stand among the youngest major winners of the modern era. Both made their first major title a record-setting romp. Both bring charisma.
Sure, McIlroy took a pair of body blows before winning at Congressional. But it's hard to envision Woods taking a Twitter picture with a guy who yanked his Masters green jacket off. McIlroy can't rest on one breakthrough, but he's already shown to be a major factor.
And consider this: If the lad wins another major in either 2011 or 2012, he'll actually be ahead of Woods' pace.
Certainly has a shot
The easy answer is, "oh yes, absolutely" after the way Rory McIlroy dominated Congressional Country Club and the field at the U.S. Open. He's a great, young talent with plenty of promise. He showed that Tiger swagger and game at the U.S. Open. With a little fortitude and fortune, he could have won the Masters. And then, he'd be going for his third major in a row at the British Open.
But really, no one can be the next Tiger. He was unique and dominant, as in 14 major championships. McIlroy has one major, and yes, if he displays the same shot-making prowess and temperament as he did in the U.S. Open, he can emerge as one of the greats of the game.
And in time, that may be enough to reach or surpass Tiger's rarified status.