U.S. Open Golf 2011: Rory McIlroy Wins First Major, Is He the Next Tiger Woods?

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IJune 20, 2011

BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the trophy after his eight-stroke victory on the 18th green during the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

This weekend, Rory McIlroy rewrote golf’s record book, as he shot the lowest 72-hole score (268) in U.S. Open history. No player had ever been lower than 12 under par at the Open, and McIlroy eclipsed that with ease.

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland went 13 under par on Friday, 14 under par on Saturday and 16 under par on Sunday en route to his first major championship victory.

The gallery fell in love with McIlroy’s style, as they have waited patiently to coronate a new king in the sport. And now, the talk will begin…Is McIlroy going to exceed both Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods for the all-time record of major championship wins?

He has become the youngest player (22 and one month) to win a major, and you figure McIlroy will continue to play professionally for another 20 years. That would give him at least 80 major appearances to try to catch golfing elite. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as McIlroy has a lot to achieve before being compared to the Golden Bear or Tiger.

McIlroy isn’t intimidated by Woods’ talent. He even called him “an ordinary golfer” last March and never once hid behind the old athlete’s axiom that he was “misquoted” in order to avoid controversy. 

Our mistake is that we’re comparing McIlroy to the Woods of his glory years and not the Woods who is currently struggling on the PGA Tour. The old Woods would be a formidable opponent, but this broken-down version would have been 10 strokes behind McIlroy just like everyone else in the field this weekend.

Golf fans identify better with McIlroy than Woods because of his modest upbringing and how he suddenly appeared on the scene. They love his no-nonsense attitude on the course, as McIlroy quickly sizes up his shot and then immediately proceeds to hit the ball. He doesn’t even take a practice putt before making his approach to the flag.

Also, McIlroy became golf’s sentimental choice to win the U.S. Open at Congressional, especially after his Sunday meltdown at Augusta. He showed that if failure is handled correctly, you can become a sympathetic figure to all.

If Woods had ever lost a significant lead at a major, his press conference would have been abrupt and short—almost in defiance towards the media, in a “how dare they question my play on the course” attitude.

On the other end of the spectrum, McIlroy was open and honest about his failed attempt to win at the Masters, and this help lessened the scrutiny placed on analyzing his critical mistakes. Clearly, McIlroy isn’t interested in contending for major championships. He wants to win them in convincing fashion.

Its official: The Tiger Woods era has ended, and Rory-mania has just begun!