That’s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when you picture Rory McIlroy—a baby-faced, curly-locked, unassuming 23-year-old golfer.
According to Fox Sports’ Robert Lusetich, Norman believes that the 14-time major championship winner is scared of the young Irishman. The Great White Shark notes there are similarities to be drawn from golf’s history and his own career path:
“What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” he says. “When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never. But I think he knows his time’s up and that’s normal; these things tend to go in 15-year cycles. Jack took it from Arnold (Palmer). I took it from Jack, Tiger from me and now it looks like Rory’s taking it from Tiger.”
Woods—with his abundant confidence—shrugged off these comments and actually twisted them into a joke. He started calling McIlroy “The Intimidator” on Wednesday morning and slyly said, “It’s got to be the hair,” when asked why he might be scared of Rory.
Tiger had a more poignant retort to Norman’s statement as well, per Harig’s report:
"No one is the size of (linebacker) Ray Lewis who is going to hit me coming over the middle, so this is a different kind of sport," Woods said Wednesday on the eve of the 30-player Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. "We go out there and play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day."
When the question was flipped and McIlroy was asked if Woods intimidated him, the current World No. 1 replied that it is more of a respect than a fear that he feels for the man who spent 623 weeks on top of the rankings.
"I don't think intimidated is the right word. More just in awe of what he [Woods] has done, of his accomplishments, of his achievements, but never intimidated," he said.
The two golfers have become friendly over the past two years, playing many rounds together and often being grouped in tournaments.
However, McIlroy knows he still has a lot of work to do in order to be in the same discussion as Tiger, per Harig:
"How can I intimidate Tiger Woods?'' McIlroy said. "I mean, the guy's got 70-whatever (74) PGA tour wins, 14 majors. He's been the biggest thing ever in our sport. I mean, how could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It's just not possible. I don't know where he (Norman) got that from, but it's not true.''
Is Tiger intimidated by McIlroy?
While the Shark’s comments are making for some interesting gossip in the golfing world, the fact of the matter is Tiger is still working on catching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major wins.
Until Rory has a lot more than two under his own belt, there can’t be a serious discussion about how McIlroy is the next challenger to The Golden Bear’s greatness.