Rory McIlroy became a professional golfer in mid-September of 2007 and just over five years later finds himself looking forward to 2013 as the undisputed king of the golfing world.
Some might call that a meteoric rise, but I hesitate to characterize it that way because most meteors flame out quickly.
That’s not how I see McIlroy.
Obviously, he has done a lot of amazing things on the golf course. You don’t win major championships by eight shots or shoot 42-under par over the course of the four FedEx Cup playoff events if you’re not spectacular.
Golf fans for years have heard about how structured and strict the early years of Tiger Woods’ life were. Things weren’t nearly as military-like for McIlroy, but the youngster got hooked on golf early.
He didn’t travel the same fast-track path to professional golf that Woods did. He played on the European Tour in 2008 with some success and didn’t compete on the PGA Tour until 2009. He also played very well in his rookie season, posting three top 10 finishes and earning over $800,000.
The first of the right calls McIlroy has made came last year when the youngster decided to leave his management team, International Sports Management, that was founded by Chubby Chandler. He had been McIlroy’s only manager, but the youngster opted to join Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management to be managed by Michael Bannon.
“I feel like I’m going on to the next level and that I need something a little different,” he told The Telegraph at the beginning of November. “I just feel like I want to be the best player I can be, to concentrate on golf and just try to win golf tournaments — and to have a fresh approach, maybe a different view on things, might just allow me to do that. Until this point I haven’t won enough. “It’s not a decision that I’ve made overnight. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’ve spoken to the people who are close to me, obviously my mum and dad, and they’re 100 per cent behind any decision that I make. I just feel like it’s a good move for me.”
Nobody has spoken directly about the reasons for the split, but McIlroy had received some criticism, along with England’s Lee Westwood, for opting to play more on the European Tour than on the PGA Tour in 2011. Those two were the only top 20 players not to compete in the Players Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass.
If Chandler was trying to make McIlroy more of a European player than a world-type player, McIlroy didn’t buy that sort of plan.
Perhaps he was keenly aware of what might be out there financially for a young, curly-haired player with one of those entertaining Irish accents and the very best game in the world.
Will he continue to process information and make the kinds of business and career calls he has to this point?
I can’t imagine that he won’t.
He’s starting to mature already, indicating that his 2013 schedule will be trimmed down from 2012, when he played 15 times on the PGA Tour and eight times on the European. While his schedule isn’t finalized, it could contain as many as four events less than last year.
Like it or not, he’s tailoring his schedule on the Tiger blueprint. It will be geared to the four majors, the four World Golf Championship events, the Irish Open and the Memorial. That sort of schedule worked well for Woods when he was dominating the game, so don’t expect McIlroy’s to be a great deal different.
Rory McIlroy has racked up a great deal of experience in the last couple years. Some of it has been good (winning two majors at age 23)and some of it has been bad (the implosion that occurred in the final round of the 2010 Masters). All of that has helped him become the gifted, young golfer that he is.
Has he missed more cuts than Tiger? Absolutely.
He still has wobbles in his game that will no doubt be part of the to-do list he’ll be working on before his season starts in the new year.
Is he going to follow directly in the footsteps that Woods made on the PGA Tour landscape? Doubtful.
But he has been a big fan of Woods since he started getting interested in golf and he’s seen the missteps Woods has made along the way.
Is he a lock to put together a Hall of Fame career void of injuries or difficulties? Absolutely not, but McIlroy is a great athlete and world-class individual who is making clear-minded decisions.