Rory McIlroy began 2013 as the No. 1 ranked player in the world, but Tiger Woods won five tournaments and finished the year as world No. 1.
While Woods moved up the world golf rankings, McIlroy struggled and finished the year at No. 6.
Woods and McIlroy both made their 2013 season debuts in Abu Dhabi in January. Both were paid big appearance fees and both missed the cut.
McIlroy’s mega-endorsement deal with Nike was announced to the world amid a huge media event including a laser light show, smoke and rock music in Abu Dhabi. It was to be the crowning of the new prince of golf, the heir apparent to Tiger Woods.
It turned out to be the highlight of the year for McIlroy.
Young Rory had completely dominated the golf world in 2012. He won four titles, including his second career major championship, the PGA Championship. He finished inside the top 10 in 10 of his 16 PGA Tour starts and earned over $8 million.
In 2012, he became only the second player to win the money titles on both the PGA and European Tours in the same season.
At 23 years old with a $200 million endorsement deal in his pocket and a world-class professional tennis player on his arm, he was on top of the world.
Things did not go according to plan in 2013, however.
After the missed cut in Abu Dhabi, he got bumped in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play by his good friend and the 64th seed, Shane Lowry.
The very next week he was the defending champion at the Honda Classic, but he had suddenly lost his game, as well as his peace of mind. Near the end of the second round on Friday when it looked like he was going to post a score over 80, he walked off the course and withdrew, citing a sore tooth.
Thus far Nike was not receiving a very good return on their huge investment.
In the switch to Nike, McIlroy completely changed clubs and balls. He seemed to struggle with the new equipment early in 2013. He played a light schedule in January and February, and it appeared he would need more reps to get comfortable with the new sticks.
Woods experienced his first of four rules violation mishaps this year in Abu Dhabi. Additional penalty strokes posted to his score after his round on Friday caused him to miss the cut.
He bounced back nicely, however, with a win in the Farmers Insurance Open at one of his favorite courses, Torrey Pines.
He also got bounced early in the WGC-Accenture Match Play and finished T-37 at the Honda Classic.
His season changed in early March. He won the WGC-Cadillac at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In his next start he finished T-4 in the Masters at Augusta and then won the Players Championship.
Four wins and five top-10 finishes in just seven starts on the PGA Tour moved him back to No. 1 on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and to the top of the PGA Tour money list.
Tiger made a huge statement to the golf world and young McIlroy. He was back.
Rory posted a T-8 finish at Doral but finished T-45 at the Shell Houston Open. Houston was to be his last tournament before the Masters, but his caddie suggested he get more practice by adding the Valero Texas Open to his schedule.
Texas turned out to be a good idea. McIlroy picked up $660,000 in his best finish of the year with a runner-up. Four rounds of 72-67-71-66 got him to 12-under par and ready for Augusta.
A third-round 79 ended McIlroy’s chances in the Masters, and he eventually finished T-25.
A T-10 at the Wells Fargo and T-8 at the Players ensued before the wheels completely came off the train.
He would not post a top 25 in his next four events on the PGA Tour. In addition, he would miss cuts in the BMW Championship and the Irish Open on the European Tour. He even missed the cut at Muirfield in the Open Championship.
McIlroy did finish T-8 as the defending champion in the PGA Championship, but his struggles continued in the FedExCup playoffs. He finished outside the top 30 and did not earn a spot in the Tour Championship.
After his win at the Players, Woods finished T-65 in the Memorial, T-32 in the U.S. Open, T-6 in the Open Championship and won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
In spite of back spasms, he managed a runner-up finish to Adam Scott at The Barclays. Battling a tender back and a sore wrist throughout the FedExCup playoffs, he finished the year with over $8.5 million in earnings.
Although Woods failed to win a major again this season, he won five PGA Tour titles and the tour money title. He was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time and won his ninth Vardon Trophy.
After the PGA Tour season ended, McIlroy finally got his first win of the year at the Korean Open and then bested Woods in an exhibition in China.
Playing in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Finals, he finished T-27 in the BMW Masters, T-6 in the WGC-HSBC Champions and T-5 in the DP World Tour Championship.
McIlroy seems to have gotten over the hump. Hopefully his management situation and legal problems are behind him and he can concentrate on his golf in 2014.
He finished the year at No. 6 in the OWGR and is on an upswing heading into next season.
Tiger proved to the world that he is back and ready to resume winning major tournaments.
With Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Justin Rose playing their best, McIlroy and Woods have tough competition heading into 2014.