Sports

Just maybe, McIlroy can outdo Tiger

McIlory's latest win and Woods' abject performance raise argument on who can 
chase Nicklaus

Rory McIlroy has set the golf world alight, and the chatter around water coolers after his dominating performance at the British Open is not dissimilar to the kind of talk Tiger Woods used to generate when he won any one of his 14 Majors.

The Northern Irishman has now chalked up three Majors of his own, and admirers are already predicting he'll achieve the career Grand Slam at next year's Masters in Augusta.

Incredibly, there are a growing number who believe McIlroy can even surpass Woods' accomplishments, and possibly chase down Jack Nicklaus' all-time Major mark of 18.

Not Graeme McDowell, though.

While he was full of admiration for McIlroy's Open victory on Sunday, he does not believe his fellow Northern Irishman can go on to dominate the game.

McIlroy's two shot-win over Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler at Royal Liverpool made him just the third player after Woods and Nicklaus to have won three Majors by the age of 25.

However, McDowell feels the talented new generation in the game will make it impossible for McIlroy to match Woods at his prime, when the former world No. 1 won seven of his 14 Major titles between August 1999 and June 2002.

"I don't think we'll ever see the dominance of Tiger Woods in the late '90s, early 2000s. I don't think we're ever going to see that again," said McDowell, who proved his own point as one of 15 different winners of the 16 Majors played between 2009 and 2012.

"For every Rory there's an Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia and a Tiger and a Phil (Mickelson). There're too many good players now. It's so deep. It's so strong. Everyone is so good."

On the other side of the argument stands Ireland's Padraig Harrington.The three-time Major champion believes McIlroy can match Nicklaus' haul of 18, but warned the new Open champion that he must strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of his best years.

With Woods in decline - he finished at six-over on Sunday - and no one else in the game capable of beating McIlroy's A game, the Hollywood superstar will need to rack up the Majors at the current rate of three every four years to have a chance of catching the Golden Bear.

But given the quality of his A game and the experience he is gaining, Harrington expects McIlroy to go on and dominate golf.

Said Harrington: "Age is on his side but not necessarily time.

"I do see a change coming quickly in golf with Rory driving the ball probably better than anybody else in the game."

There was much interest over what Woods said when he offered his verdict on McIlroy's performance in emulating himself and Nicklaus.

Asked if he expected the 25-year-old to go on and dominate the Majors in the way he had done, Tiger was less than effusive.

"You can see, the way Rory plays is pretty aggressive," Woods said. "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. 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."

Woods does not believe McIlroy is as good as him.

But he is simply desperate to stay healthy and get competitive again. His journey back to greatness will likely lead him to McIlroy, who now represents the greatest obstacle to his hope of winning four or more Major titles to surpass Nicklaus' magical mark.

- Wire Services.