The crowning of the next Tiger Woods has become common place since the golfer has struggled. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the media has reached again.
Yet Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods couldn’t be any different and not just stats wise.
Comparing the wins, Woods-71 McIlroy-2, is easy. Comparing their careers up until the age of 22, Woods- Three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles, 1996 NCAA Champion, 1997 Masters Champion and No. 1 in the world in that same year, McIlroy- 2006 European Amateur Championship, 2011 U.S. Open Champion and No. 8 in the world currently, is ever easier.
This article isn’t about the stats though—the thing that separates Woods from everyone else is the mentality he had. Even though he was limping for the entire round, almost using his driver as a walking stick at one point, every person in the crowd knew he was going to make that 12 foot birdie putt on the 18th at Torrey Pines in 2008. Woods never lost, because he seemed to never think he could lose.
He was cocky and after all the awards he won, he had every right to be. Golf is by far the most mentally-involved sport. That’s why when an inexperienced, talented, but hesitant McIlroy stepped up on the tee for his final round at Augusta this year with a four stroke lead, the calamity that ensued wasn’t all that surprising.
The good news for McIlroy is that the nervous look, the one that pleads “please go where I want you to ball”, was absent throughout the 2011 U.S. Open. It wasn’t replaced with Woods’ dominant stare though, instead it looked as if the pro was just having fun doing everything the way he wanted.
McIlroy spent a lot of time this weekend talking about becoming more arrogant and cocky on the course. Immediately my mind thought of a signature Woods fist pump or maybe a putt-trailing, finger-pointing, triumph walk. Yet we didn’t see any of it. That’s not the Northern Irishman’s game.
While Woods got the crowd cheering with his powerful swing, sleeve-dwelling emotions and tremendous long putts, McIlroy gets the crowd on their feet with unflappable consistency and a wide grin. Tiger will create eagle chances and possibly have a few bogeys here or there, but all Rory will do is hit almost every fairway and green in regulation, and leave the ball within 15 feet to make sure he doesn’t get worse than a par. His eagle on the eighth hole on Friday was nothing short of exceptional, but that’s just an added bonus for one of the best iron players in the field.
McIlroy makes every shot look easy whereas Tiger always made every difficult shot. McIlroy plays the course in textbook fashion, whereas Woods just went out and dominated it.
A perfect example is the opposing swing types. McIlroy's picturesque swing flows through the ball, seamlessly guiding it wherever he wants in a single motion. Woods’ swing blasted the ball, using his entire body to create a lot of club head speed.
Both swings even come with contradictory flaws. If he makes a mistake, McIlroy tends to hook the ball overpowering his stance, which hurt him at the 2011 Masters, and most noticeably, on the 18th hole of his first round at the U.S. Open. Woods’ left knee has received much attention since its breakdown at Torrey Pines and has even made Woods tweak his swing to make sure he didn’t injure it again. This has taken away some of Woods' swagger and led to his recent struggles.
John Brenkus, host of the show Sports Science, broke down Woods’ swing and said, “his left knee can experience rotational forces of up to 15 times his body weight.
McIlroy talked about his swing in an article for golfdigest.com. “People are amazed at how far I hit it off the tee…,” he said, “…I like to swing with no fear. I’m a grip-it-and-rip-it kind of guy.”
While the accolades easily separate the two, it is the obvious personality differences that make these golfers special in their own way.