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Is It Too Much, Too Soon for Rory McIlroy?

Posted on July 12, 2011 by A.J. Foss

According to some golf experts, Rory McIlroy will be a dominant force for years to come.

With Tiger Woods out of this week’s British Open, the focus will once again be on Rory McIlroy, who is coming off a dominant victory in last month’s U.S. Open.

In the aftermath of his performance in the U.S. Open, many writers and past golfers have said or written that McIlroy will win multiple majors and become the next great superstar in golf.

Just a few days ago, nine-time major champion Gary Player said that McIlroy could be the next Grand Slam Winner and win all four majors in the same year “if he has the passion and the desire”.

All these expectations for McIlroy seem a bit much for a 22-year old who has only won two other tournaments across the world since he became a professional in 2007.

Perhaps the main reason to anoint McIlroy as the “next big thing” in golf is the recent decline of Woods, who has not a tournament since his infamous car accident in Thanksgiving of 2009.

Personal drama and injuries have derailed Woods in the last year and a half, dropping him to 19th in the World Golf Rankings entering at the time of the Open Championship, with no sign of him climbing up through the rankings until he returns from injury.

Woods’ absence has had golf fans clamoring for another superstar to embrace and it seems that McIlroy has been chosen to fill the void left by Tiger.

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman has shown flashes of greatness in his brief professional career, especially in the majors.

In last year’s British Open, McIlroy shot a nine-under-par 63 in the opening round, tying for the lowest scoring round in a major championship, before finishing in third place.

This performance was followed by another third place finish in the next major, the PGA Championship, and then came this year’s Masters, where McIlroy was the best golfer at Augusta for the first three days before his collapse on the final day as he shot an 80 and ended up finishing 10 shots behind eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.

However, McIlroy did show some mental toughness to bounce back from that nightmare and to perform the way he did last month at Congressional to win his first career major.

Even though there were some expectations for him to become to a great player before the U.S. Open, it was after McIlroy’ s impressive victory where the comparisons to Tiger and other great golfers from the past really picked up.

While McIlroy does have the swing and the potential to be that next great player, he must be aware of the tale of another European player whose expectations became sky-high following a performance in a major championship.

In 1999, then 19-year-old Sergio Garcia thrilled golf fans as he made a late charge on the back nine holes of the Medinah Country Club on Woods, only to fall one stroke behind as Woods captured his second of 14 majors.

Following this runner-up performance, many golf experts believed that Garcia would rise up to become the chief rival for Woods and that he would “have much to say during the next 20 years”, according to the New York Times’ Dave Anderson.

Sergio Garcia has not lived up to expectations since his duel with Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship.

But in the years since his duel with Tiger at Medinah, Garcia has failed to win a major championship and has become the best player in the world never to have won a major championship.

Unlike Garcia, McIlroy does have a major championship victory, but he would be wise to not to get ahead of himself and perhaps learn from Garcia’s mistakes.

If McIlroy were to win this week at Royal St. George’s or next month’s PGA Championship, it would still not mean that he will have a career of the likes of Woods or Player, but just that he had a fantastic year.

If he continues to perform well in major championships and more tournaments throughout the world in the next two or three years, then maybe it would be more legitimate to say that McIlroy as a golfer for the ages.

But perhaps it would be best if golf fans and golf writers follow Jack Nicklaus’ advice; “Don’t anoint him as the crown prince yet”.

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