Rory McIlroy vs. Tiger Woods: Why Comparisons Are Impossible
After a second major victory by eight strokes, Rory McIlroy will face impossible comparisons with Tiger Woods probably for the rest of his career.
Both men won two majors before the age of 24 and had dominating moments throughout. Each of them won a PGA Championship to do so and rose to No. 1 in the world as a result of winning.
Even though it's only been 13 years between Tiger's one-stroke edging of Sergio Garcia at Medinah Country Club and McIlroy's romp on Sunday, golf has changed drastically in that span.
The biggest reason Rory and Tiger can't be properly compared is just the same in other sports: Each are entering their prime in different eras.
During Tiger's reign in the early 2000s, technology did not have such undue influence on the game as it does now.
Everyone is familiar with the "Tiger-proofing" of courses, right? That's because Tiger simply hit it far longer than anyone else. Technology has now leveled that playing field in an unprecedented way.
Sure, there are still players today that bomb it further than others—including McIlroy. However, it's a lot more of a fine line in today's game, and equipment is the reason.
What the proliferation of golf technology has also done is increase the depth of the field.
The design of the ball, the clubs and improvement in training methods has produced more parity in the game than ever. It's far easier to hit the ball straighter today than it was even 13 years ago.
Has golf changed enough to make Rory and Tiger incomparable?
The way technology is affecting golf actually enhances the accomplishments of both Tiger and McIlroy in their respective contexts.
Although Tiger was renowned in his heyday for demolishing opponents mentally as well as on the scoreboard, what he did set in motion the movement that has actually been a disadvantage to players like him who are a cut above.
Essentially, golf said, "Tiger, you're too good. We have to lengthen our courses, improve our technology and change the way we think about the game to give people a chance against you."
In spite of how far golf technology has come since Tiger burst onto the scene, only his personal life crash and swing changes have prevented him from winning majors on a consistent basis.
Tiger's greatness is ironically what would make McIlroy's early achievements possibly more impressive.
With two major performances that are among the best of all-time, McIlroy is writing his own legacy in an era of unprecedented parity.
The mighty McIlroy has managed to outmuscle two major venues and blow the field away in an era of such intense competition and relatively level playing fields. This only further highlights the mind-boggling natural talent McIlroy has.
Despite being about 5'10" and 160 pounds, McIlroy is also among the longest hitters in the game. While McIlroy looks far more cut than a year ago, he's still smaller than most guys who blast the ball.
Just look at the PGA Tour's statistics for the leaders in driving distance.
The guys who hit it as far as McIlroy, and are similar height, are 30 pounds heavier, and the others are 6'3" and 6'4".
Without Tiger, though, ridiculous course yardages and arms race-style golf technology would likely not have been as prominent. Even Rory McIlroy the golfing sensation may not exist, because of the previously unfathomed way Tiger globalized golf.
The fact that Tiger is a contemporary of McIlroy creates even more problems when trying to compare the two.
What will Tiger do the rest of the way? He has about 10 years left. Can McIlroy keep up the intensity after achieving so much at such a young age?
That's why it's all the more strange to say that Tiger and Rory are of different eras of golf.
How would Tiger have managed with such a finer line between players? Could he still impose his will on opponents to such a staggering degree?
When breaking down the early accomplishments of Tiger and Rory, there are more questions than answers.
What each superstar has done in his own unique way has created a very bright future for the game of golf. After all, the promise of tomorrow is the ultimate ideal in sports.
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