Rory McIlroy broke nearly every conceivable scoring record en route to becoming the youngest player to win the US Open since Bobby Jones and the youngest Major Champion since Tiger Woods
He is also the 2011 US Open Champion after touring the Congressional Country Club golf course for four rounds in a tournament record 16-under par 268 strokes. He is the youngest US Open Champion since Bobby Jones won the tournament in 1923 and he is the youngest major tournament champion since Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters Tournament.
Attempting to proclaim him the next Tiger is akin to anointing Kobe Bryant or LeBron James as the next Michael Jordan. What Rory is, is a fantastic young golfer—a prodigy, even—with an extremely likable personality, as well as the humility and charitability to be a great role model both within and without the world of sports.
That is not to say, however, that his career may not one day equal or surpass that of Tiger's, which Jordan's aforementioned post-generation NBA rivals most certainly will not.
Comparisons are Inevitable
McIlroy is cut from the same cloth as his easy going Northern Ireland countryman, friend and fellow US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell, only he's an infinitely more talented player.
McDowell is a great golfer in his own right who will win his fair share of tournaments and likely another major title or two, but McIlroy is transcendent.
Who will emerge as Rory's greatest professional golfing rival?
Another Irishman and winner of the 2007 and 2008 British Opens and the 2008 PGA Championship, Padraig Harrington, has gone so far as to say young Rory McIlroy is the fellow who may well surpass Jack Nicklaus' record eighteen major championships.
"If you are going to talk about someone challenging Jack's record there's your man," said Harrington.
"Winning majors at 22 with his talent, he would have 20 more years, so probably 100 more majors in him where he could be competitive. It would give him a great chance."
In broader terms, Rory's story is reminiscent of tennis' Rafael Nadal emerging as a major force in the 2006 French Open, and just as Rafa proved about himself, the young golfer seems to have the ilk to win plenty more major titles.
Did I mention that Rory recently turned 22?
A Rival for Rory?
Tiger and Phil will forever be linked the same as Jack and Arnie. The question is, if Rory has broken through the glass ceiling he's butted his head upon the past couple of years—and with the single-round and now composite round records he's established in recent majors, it appears he has—who will emerge as his greatest rival?
Lee Westwood seems to cut the most imposing figure at the moment, but this generation of great young golfers includes a slew of talented players who could be up to the challenge, namely Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, the young Jason Day and Americans Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, among many, many others, including a batch of youthful Asian phenoms like Ryo Ishikawa, former PGA Champion Y.E. Yang and Kyung-Tae Kim, who have emerged from the woodwork in recent international and PGA events.
Of course Fowler has to win a tournament first, but how cool would it be to see these guys racking up wins for the next decade or so?