I caught sports radio talk show earlier this week in which a veteran Palm Beach Post sports writer commented about a potential rivalry between newly-crowned U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and the convalescing Tiger Woods.
The show’s host, to his credit, argued there will be no rivalry between the Injured, er, Striped One, and young Irishman because of the 13-year age difference, not to mention Eldrick’s injury problems (a topic for another day) .I have to agree. You can’t have a meaningful rivalry unless two athletes are in their primes, i.e. John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg or
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
The Post reporter differed with one of the more ridiculous offerings in the history of sports-talk radio. Not only can there be a rivalry if Woods comes back healthy, but for the past several years there has been a Tiger Woods-Jack Nicklaus rivalry. Wonder if anybody told them?
To say there is a Tiger-Nicklaus rivalry because Tiger is chasing the Nicklaus major championship record is like saying there was a Hank Aaron-Babe Ruth rivalry when Aaron was chasing 714 home runs.
The press center at Congressional had guys tripping all over themselves comparing Mcllroy to Woods and writing that Mcllroy is the heir apparent to Woods. Fact is, nobody knows and they won’t know for a long time.
What I know, however, is that McIlroy, at least this early in his career, has the same competitive fire as Woods, meaning that he wants to win every time he tees it up. That can’t be said of many players on the PGA Tour. Most of the players on today’s Tour just want to cash top 10 or top 20 checks and move on to the next event. Winning is irrelevant on the all-exempt Tour. For example, Bill Haas, a good young player, said recently he’d rather have 13 top 10’s in a season than the season in which he won two tournaments. Guys like Briny Baird have collected millions of dollars in prize money but have never won a PGA Tour event.
When Woods first came out on the Tour, he was asked what his goals were. He said he wanted to win every tournament he played in. Curtis Strange, among others, laughed at that and said and it wasn’t possible. But Eldrick proved that it was, and at the same basically exposed some players as frauds.
So now comes McIlroy, a kid who believes the same thing as the young Tiger. He stands out because he wants to win every time he plays. That makes him even more special than a runaway victory at the U.S. Open.