McIlroy Draws Comparisons to Tiger
He's 22 years old and is being lauded as the second coming of Tiger Woods.
Rory McIlroy's record-setting win in the U.S. Open Sunday, with the lowest score in the 111-year history of the event, has the golf world buzzing.
Don Padgett II, president of Pinehurst Resort, which will host both the U.S Open and and the Women's Open in 2014, was at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., to witness the performance and came away deeply impressed.
"The young man doesn't appear to have any weaknesses," Padgett said. "He drives the ball straighter than most and hits it just as long. And he has a great short game."
Is it possible that McIlroy, or any other player, can post the same kind of numbers at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014?
"I don't think the green complexes here will allow that kind of scoring," Padgett said. "The greens at Congressional took a lot of rain and got soft, allowing the players to shoot at the pins. The sand at Pinehurst will drain a lot better."
As much as he appreciates McIlroy's game, Padgett also admires the way he conducts himself.
"Rory just has a great overall attitude with people," he said. "He's from a close network of people, and he appreciates where he is."
McIlroy has been anointed as a special golf talent since before he turned professional. He's been heralded as the next Tiger since he was a teenager.
But is it a fair comparison? Is the golf world - hungry and impatient for another dominant figure - pushing too hard?
McIlroy has certainly brought those comparisons on himself by playing golf like a young Tiger. He's made other golfers look like weekend hackers by posting some amazing numbers in the Masters and the U.S. Open.
Although a final-round meltdown in the Masters cost him a win at Augusta, the young man from Hollywood, Ireland, has taken the world of golf by storm.
He's being praised as the world's next golf superstar and he doesn't seem to mind the labeling.
He stilled the fears of a hangover from the Masters disaster, where he shot 80 in the final round, by posting the lowest score in the 111-year history of the U.S. Open. He shot 65-66-68-69 for 16 under par, led wire-to-wire and won by eight strokes, making comparisons to Woods inevitable.
Jack Nance, a former star player at Wake Forest University under legendary coach Jesse Haddock and the executive director of the Carolinas Golf Association, feels McIlroy is far more than just a flash in the pan.
"He's the real deal," Nance said, "but I want to watch more of his short game under pressure. I want to see if he can pull off some great shots coming down the stretch playing someone head to head."
Accepted, Not Embraced
Nance isn't sure that the American public will embrace a Northern Ireland player the way it has Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.
"I think he'll be accepted, but they won't embrace him," Nance said. "I think he'll probably be somewhat like Greg Norman, who led the world rankings for many months. We enjoyed watching him, but I think America realized that he was somebody else's 'son.'"
McIlroy doesn't remind Nance of any of the other greats such as Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus.
"No, he's his own person," Nance said. "I can't think of anyone that he reminds me of. I haven't watched him in person, so it would be difficult to determine if he's a better striker of the ball than Tiger. However, from watching him on TV, he seems to be as good a ball striker as anyone out there, including Tiger."
Betsey Mitchell, president of the Carolinas Golf Reporters Association, an avid golfer and a rules official for the Carolinas Golf Association, likes what she's seen of McIlroy so far.
"His appreciation for how hard his parents worked to make his life possible is wonderful to see," she said.
Mitchell also feels that McIlroy will be able to handle the glare of the limelight without losing his way.
"The next year will be telling," she said. "But I predict that he'll be fine. He's already expressed an understanding of how golf fits in the world picture. I think I heard that he said about the Masters, 'Nobody died.'
"The thing I like most abut McIlroy is his pace of play. I want somebody to do a frame video of similar shots completed by Tiger and Rory with the stopwatch running.
"Can a guy from Northern Ireland become an American Idol? U2 has already answered that question. Americans love a winner."
'Refreshing Young Star'
John Derr, a Sandhills treasure who has watched great golfers for many years, including personal relationships with some of the most renowned such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson, is enthusiastic about McIlroy and what he means to professional golf.
"What a refreshing young star in our game!" Derr said. "He's great, and did we ever need him?
"Rory has so many good features it's difficult to describe him. We all marveled at his golfing skill, but he was equally impressive for his demeanor during play. He smiled a lot. I guess you can do that if you're far enough ahead.
"I think Americans will accept him, and they should. They may see a lot of his smooth swing in the next two decades or longer.
"I don't look at Rory as a rival of Tiger, either on the course or in the record books, but real golf fans around the world enjoy him. And, since golf has become so global, American fans, Irish fans and even the English will appreciate Mr. McIlroy."
Contact Howard Ward at email@example.com.
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