The Rory McIlroy Express: Let's Tap the Brakes and Enjoy the Tour Championship

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2012

CARMEL, IN - SEPTEMBER 09:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with J.K. Wadley Trophy (R) and the BMW Championship 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

With his victories at the PGA Championship and the past two FedEx Cup Events is Rory McIlroy now the greatest golfer in the world?

People are wondering—is he better than Tiger? Is he gearing up for a “Tiger Woods 2000” stretch of play? Will Tiger beat Rory at the Tour Championship…the Ryder Cup? Is Tiger afraid of Rory…motivated by him…friends with him? Is Rory better at this stage in his career than Tiger was?

Who cares! The FedEx Cup finale and the Ryder Cup are here and should be our only focal points.

To engage the previous questions is to turn away from a sunset and towards a child’s rendering of the skyscape while discussing aesthetics.

The debates are silly, speculative nonsense in any environment. In light of the incredible combination of forces that will erupt on the golfing world over the next two weeks, such blabbering is moronic.

McIlroy has had just over a month of great form. Between the Masters and the PGA Championship, however, the conversation surrounding the mop-headed golfer was much different. Writers and fans were asking whether he was in a slump and what the causes of a streak of cuts and uninspiring major performances could be.

Winning three of his last four PGA Tour events (including the PGA Championship) is impressive. However, there’s no need to speculate about the implications McIlroy’s month of fine play may have or to compare it to other stretches with so many flourishing topics in the world of golf right now.

The FedEx Cup, while not without flaws, is working. The original objective of the Cup has been accomplished—Golf following the PGA Championship is now worth watching.

Using the Playoffs as a vehicle, Rory McIlroy has thrilled audiences with fine play. It’s difficult to imagine similar questions arising about McIlroy’s greatness if he had won the Reno Tahoe Open or the 84 Lumber Classic, which were previously held in August and September, before 2007.

Speaking of the FedEx Cup, the final tournament of the Playoffs is this week, in case you forgot. Don’t get caught up in scenarios where various players win the Cup. Rather, remember the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are competing in the event and one of them will have the opportunity to make a putt to win $10 million. What could be more compelling, short of a major?

Additionally, we’ll get to see how Rory McIlroy handles the course, having never played Bobby Jones’s home track before. Also, this will be Tiger Woods's first trip to East Lake—and to the FedEx Cup Finals, consequently—since he won the competition in 2009.

While I think it’s an error for the FedEx Cup finale to come only a week before the Ryder Cup for multiple reasons, the biennial contest between the United States and Europe is next week. There are story lines to consider as the competition nears, but most compelling story is the competition itself—three days of the best players in the world battling fiercely at a fantastic venue.

There is one question which we ought not speculate about now, but will be answered in the next two weeks—how will Woods and McIlroy fare in general and potentially against one another?

Beyond all this, the Jungle Bird has landed again. I’d rather engage in a discussion of the utility of wearing a Union Jack knit hat and making bird noises during sporting events than debate Greg Norman’s suggestion that Tiger Woods is afraid of Rory McIlroy.