6 Reasons Rory McIlroy Will Catch Jack Nicklaus' Majors Record
In both of his major victories, Rory McIlroy blew away the field. He won by eight strokes in both his 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship victories.
McIlroy used the same formula for both victories: Start to separate in the third round and use a hot putter to annihilate the field in the final round.
McIlroy has been questioned for having the killer instinct. It’s been asked if he just views the game as a hobby rather than a mission, like Tiger Woods does.
He is much more open than Woods in terms of his relationship to both fans and media. He doesn’t bark every time a person gives him a wrong look.
Due to McIlroy’s knack for getting leads and extending them, here are the six reasons he will catch and surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
His Fellow Players
After Sunday’s victory, we heard two of McIlroy’s fellow countrymen, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington, feeling it was entirely possible for McIlroy to pass Jack Nicklaus.
According to the Associated Press, Harrington stated that when McIlroy is on his A-game, it is tough for everyone else to compete (via ESPN).
McDowell stated that McIlroy is at minimum a "once-in-a-decade player."
Unlike Tiger in his pursuit of Nicklaus, McIlroy is likely to be cheered on by his fellow players as he gets close to the record. It’s even possible that the other players will want it more for McIlroy than McIlroy himself will.
Having the support of his fellow players is a big reason McIlroy will pass Nicklaus, as other players will share the pressure McIlroy's feeling.
His Lower Expectations
If it can be believed, Rory McIlroy is actually underrated according to superstar standards. He didn’t have the hoopla surrounding him that Woods did when he first came on tour (due to Tiger's father telling everyone how great he would be).
McIlroy was known to have a great game, but after so many letdowns with players like Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley, the expectation levels of young stars have been tempered the last few years.
Due to his lowered expectations, McIlroy has been able to maintain a semblance of privacy. He can train on his own, go to soccer games and tennis matches like any other celebrity and not get the hounding that players like Woods and Phil Mickelson have faced.
The ability to live a normal life has allowed McIlroy to develop into a great player on his timetable. Keeping a lower profile will help him surpass anyone’s wildest goals.
His Media Availability
Rory McIlroy has been a fixture on the Golf Channel and is more than happy to grant interviews. He was on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, and admitted a humorous story of how he overslept before the final round.
That makes McIlroy a favorite of the people who cover him. They are less likely to try to stir up some scandal, even though it is going to always be present from outlier media groups.
McIlroy can convince the media to go easy on him as he pursues the major record. Having been granted access on a regular basis, they are more likely to be civil, which allows him to concentrate on his golf game rather than on keeping every aspect of his life a secret.
His Public Personal Life at an Early Age
Rory McIlroy is part of a power couple in sports with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, a tennis star. McIlroy is learning at an early age how to deal with the extra hassles that go with being part of a celebrity couple, something Tiger Woods was not able to figure out.
Even more impressive is that McIlroy is dominating the golf world during this increased scrutiny. Obviously, two things can change his pressures personally: a breakup or parenting.
It’s everyone’s hope the couple will be able to live in bliss for the rest of their lives and won’t have to deal with the public heartache we saw from Sergio Garcia when he broke up with Greg Norman’s daughter.
If the two do stay together, and have children one day, that will again change McIlroy’s priorities. How he deals with changes in his personal life will be a big factor in his pursuit of Nicklaus’ record.
In his two major victories, McIlroy has been spot on with his tee-to-green game. Routinely splitting the fairway at over 300 yards, he gives himself many birdie opportunities.
When his swing is on, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. He has great rhythm and twirls the club after every good shot, which is almost all of them.
The key for McIlroy will be if he does what fellow countryman Harrington did and undergoes a swing change even while playing well. There is something to be said for "If it’s not broke, don’t fix it."
Barring a swing change or injury, McIlroy’s ball-striking should be as consistent as Tom Watson’s still is to this day, giving him a chance at every major.
By far the best tool in McIlroy’s arsenal is his putting. He took just 24 putts in his final round.
What was even more impressive than the number of putts were their lengths and the pressures he was under while pouring them in.
Many of McIlroy’s putts were anywhere from six to 12 feet. On the back nine, many of the midrange putts were to save par and keep a charging Ian Poulter off his back.
McIlroy did the same thing at Congressional during his rout of the field. He kept his left wrist pointed at the ground and didn’t allow it to break. This kept the clubhead on line and putts going where he wanted.
If McIlroy can have many more rounds of 25 or fewer putts, he will pick up 18 majors at a record pace.