Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods: Golf's 2 Biggest Question Marks

Mike RoozenContributor IIApril 23, 2011

DUBLIN, OH - JUNE 02:  Tiger Woods (L) and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland wait in a fairway during the Memorial Skins Game prior to the start of the 2010 Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 2, 2010 in Dublin, Ohio.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

There are two huge question marks heading out of this year's Masters and into the US Open June 16-19 at Congressional in Bethesda, Md.

One question mark is Tiger Woods and the other is Rory McIlroy. 

Tiger has been a huge question mark since November of 2009, but the recent Masters elevates doubt to the highest alert level it's been since his career went south that night in Florida. 

Certainly there have been questions all along about when and if he would come back from all the negative exposure and play like the best ever. 

Woods has insisted that there is progress in that direction, that it will take time, and of course there's been the myriad swing adjustments, coach changes and so on, all for a guy who, according to commercials that were never released, was about to walk on water before everything went down the drain.

But even though all these past winless months have been fraught with question marks about Tiger, the Masters this year produced the biggest question mark of all, which might be answered to a large extent by the US Open.

That question is, given the lead in a major, does Tiger still have what it takes to get it done?

When the US Open is on the line, when getting his whole life back is on the line, when he has to prove in the only way he can that he's still the greatest golfer of all-time, and that he is still coming to get Jack's Record, will Tiger have the inner strength to get it done?

His faltering when he had a chance to win after blistering the front nine on Sunday at Augusta makes that a big question mark.

Then there is big question mark number two: Rory McIlroy.

This question is produced not just by a Rory McIlroy who was unable to win with a lead going into the final round of a major, but by a guy who looked totally unprepared to handle pressure at that level at all. 

The gifted and talented Rory, who projected such a cocksure attitude for three days in Augusta, apparently forgot to get ready for how he would feel with the lead going into the final round at the Masters.

Mac looked like a boiled lobster before he ever got off the first tee, and was then eaten alive by the pressure from that point on.

My guess is that, with big question mark pressure surrounding these two premier players, the 2011 US Open title will go to a player like Charl Schwartzel or Nick Watney.

The victorious one will be a golfer about whom not much has yet been said. 

It will be someone who will not be trying to erase doubts or answer complicated internal and external questions. 

Instead, the US Open winner will be one who can prepare in a perfect uncluttered mental way to do what it takes to keep it down the middle, play flawless golf, and walk away from the closing ceremonies on the 18th at Congressional Blue Course with a quiet smile and the trophy.