Rory McIlroy: Why the Sports World Is Not Giving Him the Respect He Deserves

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2012

CARMEL, IN - SEPTEMBER 09:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the J.K. Wadley Trophy after his victory at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club on September 9, 2012 in Carmel, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

There’s an old saying that anything becomes normal if it happens often enough.

Twenty years ago if you told your friends that a player would come along and win 14 majors and 65 PGA Tour events within the span of just 12 years, they would have laughed at you and asked if you were feeling OK.

Jump ahead to 2012, and we are wondering why that guy who won 14 majors and 65 PGA Tour events in 12 years isn’t winning at the same rate as he used to.

And that brings us to young Rory McIlroy. At the age of 23, McIlroy has already compiled nine professional wins and two majors. McIlroy is the second-youngest player of all time to win two majors (second only to Jack Nicklaus).

These are amazing accomplishments in the game of golf, but there’s only one problem: This exact same movie has been playing for the past 15 years.  

At the age of 23, Tiger Woods had 15 PGA Tour wins and 20 worldwide professional wins, although he only had one major championship. Woods would of course go on to win another 13 majors and 81 professional events over the next 14 years, making him one of the best if not the greatest player to have ever lived, and he’s still only 36 years old.

People, including many professional golfers, are constantly saying that we should not compare McIlroy to Woods; that Woods has set the bar so high that it would be unfair to compare a talented young player to the great Tiger.

But, the fact of the matter is that, yes, Woods has set the bar incredibly high with his complete domination of the game from 1997 to 2008, but so far McIlroy is not far behind and in some ways has even exceeded Woods when comparing the two player’s accomplishments by the age of 23.

So, why is McIlroy not on the front page of every sports magazine and one of the most recognizable men on the face of the planet, as Woods was at the age of 23?

The answer to that question is simple.

There’s nothing new about what McIlroy is doing, because we just saw a guy do the exact same thing over the past 15 years.

When Woods began dominating the game in 1997, we hadn’t seen anything like that since Nicklaus in the '60s and '70s. Sure, there were great players such as Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman that came between Nicklaus and Woods, but they never dominated the game to the extent that Nicklaus did in the '60s and '70s and Woods did between 1997 and 2008.

So, when Woods began racking up PGA Tour wins and majors in the late '90s and early 2000s while looking as if he was a professional competing against a local high-school golf team, it was huge news, because it was different from anything we had seen since the '60s and '70s.

Had Woods decided to become a defensive back for the Oakland Raiders or a Navy SEAL instead of a professional golfer, McIlroy would have been viewed as the next coming of Bobby Jones. He would have been viewed as a Phenom—a freak, if you will—who was born to dominate the game of golf.

People would have been comparing McIlroy to the likes of Nicklaus, Jones and Hagen. Talk of the “greatest golfer of all time” would have already been hovering over McIlroy's head.

But that’s not the case.

Essentially, Woods was some kind of supersonic jet that took flight in the game of golf 15 years ago. It completely amazed us and had us dropping our jaws every Sunday for more than a decade.

But, as the old saying goes, anything becomes normal if it happens often enough, and unfortunately for McIlroy, he is now flying the same supersonic jet that we have already been watching for the past 15 years. It’s just not new anymore, which in turn means it’s just not as exciting as it would have been had Woods never come along.

Had there been no Woods, McIlroy would have been the one to change the game. He would have drawn the masses to professional golf while drastically increasing purses, attendance and viewership numbers.  

McIlroy would have been the Tiger Woods of this era…if only there hadn’t already been one.


For more golf news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.