With PGA win at dusk, Era of Rory may have dawned
AUG 11, 2014 1:33a ET
Rory McIlroy insists he doesn't read much about himself.
But I have a feeling he knows what Tiger Woods said about him at the British Open in Liverpool last month.
"When he gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It's one or the other," Woods said about McIlroy's game.
"If you look at his results, he's kind of that way. Very similar to what Phil (Mickelson) does. He has his hot weeks and he has his weeks where he's off. And that's just the nature of how he plays the game.
"It's no right way or wrong way. But it's just the nature of how he plays."
When Woods said that there was "no right way or wrong way", he didn't mean it; what he meant was that while he himself was consistent for 13 years -- 14 if you count 2013 -- McIlroy is really just a bit of a flash in the pan.
That like Mickelson -- whom Woods always felt didn't work hard enough -- Rory wins when he's hot and the rest of the time he's nowhere to be seen on leaderboards.
And there certainly, in the past, has been truth to that characterization.
Prior to this year, McIlroy had played in 20 majors as a professional and seriously contended in only the two he won.
But maybe McIlroy took Woods' words to heart?
Because there's no doubt that after Sunday's come-from-behind epic at the PGA Championship that it's time to re-evaluate Rory.
Three wins in a row, two of them majors is, dare it be said, Tiger-esque.
Indeed, McIlroy -- at 25 -- now has four majors, and Woods was just nine months younger when he won his fourth. Jack Nicklaus had just turned 25 when he won his fourth.
Those two men are, of course, the entirety of the debate when it comes to golf's greatest player of all time.
McIlroy is still, obviously, in his adolescence as a champion golfer.
He has a long way to go to be compared to either Nicklaus or Woods.
But his peers are starting to see that, like the greats, there's something special about him.
"Better than everyone else right now. Yeah, he's good," said Mickelson, whom McIlroy outgunned down the stretch at the PGA Championship.
Another of the vanquished, Henrik Stenson -- who like Mickelson and Rickie Fowler faltered on the back nine, allowing McIlroy to climb back after being down by three shots at the turn -- didn't shy away from the comparisons to Woods.
"If he's not the same, he's not far behind," the Swede said.
"He's got every opportunity to move on from here on.
"If I told you that if he were to win at least one major in the next five or seven years every year, you wouldn't be surprised, would you? He's got the opportunity to do that."
McIlroy is keenly aware of golf history; he knows what he's starting to become.
"I said I thought winning The Open Championship a few weeks ago had sort of put me on a higher level in this game," he said Sunday night.
"But then to win a fourth major here, to be one behind Phil, one behind Seve (Ballesteros), level with Ernie (Els), level with Raymond Floyd; I mean, I never thought I'd get this far at 25 years of age.
"It's something that I'm just going to have to come to terms with in a way and just -- yeah, I mean, I was happy being a two-time major champion coming into this year, and all of a sudden I'm a four-time major champion and going for the career Grand Slam at Augusta in 292 days, 291 days or whatever it is ... not that I'm counting."
Well, Rory, we're all counting. It's 242 days.
And with the prospect of a third leg of a Rory slam -- at a course that couldn't be more tailor-made for a player -- and even the prospect of a rejuvenated Tiger coming back to have a say in whether golf has really entered the Rory era, April and the Masters can't come soon enough.