Open Championship 2014: Biggest Questions Coming out of Royal Liverpool

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2014

Tiger Woods of the US lines up a putt on the 13th green during the final round of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Sunday July 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Although the 2014 British Open is over, the discussion surrounding the tournament will drag on for some time.

Rory McIlroy won his third major tournament with an impeccable four-day performance that saw him go wire-to-wire. His name had been written on the Claret Jug by Saturday night, as he carried a six-shot lead into the final day.

As with any Grand Slam, plenty of questions are begging to be asked regarding the immediate future of the sport. These are three of the biggest.


How Good Can Rory McIlroy Be, Historically Speaking?

HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 20:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds the Claret Jug aloft after his two-stroke victory at The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 20, 2014 in Hoylake, England.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

By now, most have seen the stat floating around courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, among others, about McIlroy winning three of the four Grand Slam tournaments before the age of 26:

That's all the push you really need to start the discussion about what McIlroy's legacy can be. Admittedly, this is a futile exercise because accurately predicting anybody's career is impossible. Who would've thought that Tiger Woods would get stuck on 14 majors as he has?

If anything, the British Open established that McIlroy at his best is untouchable. In terms of skill set, he does stand out in history. Few guys have been able to drive like he can yet have an approach game and acumen on the green to match.

Projecting that he could overtake or even get close to Jack Nicklaus' 18 Grand Slams is extremely premature, though. McIlroy is still 15 away.

It's a tantalizing prospect to look ahead. With how long McIlroy's been in the spotlight, it's easy to forget how young he is. He's only beginning to enter his prime golfing years.

"I feel like there's a lot more left in me," said McIlroy after the tournament, per BBC Sport. "I want be to be the guy that goes on and wins majors regularly. Golf is looking for someone to put their hand up and try to dominate and I want to be that person."

Who knows if he'll become the greatest ever, but he's at least the best thing going right now.


Is Sergio Garcia Destined Always to Come Up Short?

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Spare a second for Sergio Garcia? He's currently occupying the coveted seat for "best golfer never to win a major tournament" once held by Phil Mickelson.

Like McIlroy, Garcia's been around for so long that it seems like he's about 50 years old by now. His famous jump at the 1999 PGA Championship happened in a bygone era when they still played with wooden clubs and wore knickers un-ironically.

The guy is only 34 years old. Mickelson was 33 when he won the 2004 Masters, and he's since gone on to win another four majors.

Garcia was gracious in defeat, acknowledging that McIlroy was the better golfer, per BBC Sport:

There's a part of him that must wonder, though, what he has to do to get that elusive first major. He still has time, but with every tournament, the younger guys like McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler get stronger.


How Much Better Will Tiger Woods Get?

Jon Super/Associated Press

Any examination of the British Open can't be complete without a reference to Tiger Woods.

He admittedly didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the tournament, but he was extremely average at Hoylake. Fans rarely come to terms with an athlete's mortality, but with Woods, you wonder when he'll get back into the swing of things again.

In 2006, Woods won the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Course. In 2014, he finished a gaudy 24 strokes off that pace, per CBS Sports' Eye on Golf:

Over time, Woods could make a full recovery from microdiscectomy surgery, but he's not getting any younger. Doctors can say that his back will be healed, but they have no idea how Woods will feel when he's trying to get 100-plus miles of torque on his swing.

Will he ever again possess the same kind of power and ability to drop a pinpoint approach?

Everybody's wisely given up on ever getting the "Old Tiger Woods" back. Now we have to have a serious discussion about the "New Tiger Woods."