Don’t compare Rory McIlroy to the greats
Rory McIlroy won the PGA by a record winning margin over the weekend. Immediately comparisons were made. Could he be the next Tiger or Jack?
The simply answer is… who knows? The complex answer is… maybe.
The sample size is too small. What Rory did at the PGA Championship was very Tigerish, even down to the red shirt on Sunday, but the rest of his season has been very Michael Campbell post-2005.
Tiger won at least one major per year in his first eleven as a professional. Rory has won two and failed spectacularly in one.
This year alone he has tied for 40th in the Masters, 60th at the Open, missed the cut in the Players Championship and the US Open. So at his present age he is not directly comparable in terms of success as Tiger.
There is a propensity in the media to declare ‘the next big thing’ arriving. There can not be seen to be a lull in talent for fear of spectators losing interest.
Could it be that as sport enthusiasts we become addicted to the success of these players? We need a ‘next big thing’ to get our fix? Think about it, the first sign of addiction is obsession.
In terms of addiction it is constantly thinking about the activity. Being addicted can result in a decrease in rational thought. In this instance as Rory is in the infancy of his career with injuries, extra marital affairs, disputes with caddies and form slumps still ahead of him to even compare him to Jack and Tiger is borderline ridiculous.
If Rory wins a tournament that feat is then blown out of all proportion and gushing articles are written by sports journalists professing the star qualities of the man. His maturity and smooth swing make it easy to love him but with obsession comes the irrational.
The second stage is negative consequences. The constant comparisons between a young man and two seasoned pros who are one in a generation players, heaps pressure upon him. It creates a perception that perhaps he should be better than he is, more dominant, more consistent.
Keep in mind Rory, in terms of wins in 2012, is still behind an aging Tiger, who is held together by duct tape, missing half of his bank balance and in the decline of his career. If you can not beat a shell of the player you are to become, what hope do you have of accomplishing this goal set upon you?
It also has a negative effect in the value of the two previously mentioned legends. It insinuates that what they have done previously can be achieved by any kid who wins a few tournaments and pops in and out of the number 1 spot.
Tiger and Jack forged careers over many years and in the case of Nicklaus well into his 40s. They deserve to be left in another stratosphere until a young stud at least gets to five majors.
The third is the lack of control. This is the current situation. Despite the possible negative effects and the slim odds of the comparisons becoming reality comparisons are made.
Journalists and fans may have the best intentions in mind, they only say it sparingly to begin with but once the comparisons start it is hard to rein in the metaphorical horse once it has bolted.
The final stage is denial. This is when fans and journalists admit that they are addicts and need some help. In Rory’s case it will be around the time he attains a serious injury or another young stud beats him a few times.
Obsession is a dangerous thing. McIlroy is a very good golfer but it is far too soon to be making any comparisons about what he might become in a career, which may span over 20 to 25 years.
McIlroy has also begun his ascension at a time when world golf is at its strongest. Thanks to Tiger the purses at tournaments, sponsorship money, crowd attendance and TV time have all increased.
As a result fields in golf are far deeper than when Tiger first started. The players are now fitter and stronger. The competition is brutal; it explains why there had not been a multiple winner of a major in a long time.
The one thing that will hurt McIlroy’s chances may not be Tiger himself but his lingering legacy. By creating an unprecedented level of depth in golf, Tiger may have protected himself and Jack for a few generations to come.
McIlroy has all the potential in the world, but potential is not enough. There are too many variables to make a prediction that he might even get within 10 major wins of Tiger.
He is a talent but the comparisons should be put on hold, for now at least.