MARCH 12, 2012
Before we go all gushy about the new
world No. 1 – who has held the top spot
for two, count ‘em, two consecutive weeks
– and whether he’s some kind of second
coming, let’s see if most of us can hop on
board the train back to reality.
Rory McIlroy, all of 23 years old, is probably the best player in the game at the moment, and we stress the momentary nature
of this declaration. He has the best swing
and every part of his game is championship
caliber. But that’s in the shallow end of a
deep talent pool, where there are a double
handful of players who are just about as
good. In other words, McIlroy is No. 1 with
a slingshot instead of a bullet.
Of his last 17 worldwide starts, he has
three victories, including one major championship. He also has four second-place
finishes and three thirds. That means, especially when the gap between winner and
runner-up is no more than a shot or two,
you had a chance to win and didn’t.
All those high finishes accumulate a
basket full of world ranking points but they
don’t do anything to cement your reputation
as a closer, which is really what you need
to be the true and uncontested world No. 1.
That was certainly the case with a
former No. 1, who spent 600 or 5,000 or
however many weeks atop the rankings.
Tiger Woods’ father, Earl, used to call Tiger
a “cold-blooded assassin” on the course
and no one has come up with a better de-
scription. Woods would cut your heart out
and stomp on it given half a chance, and
there have been many a bleeding heart left
in the trail of tears.
know how to lay their hands on things, and
people that could cause trouble at home.
Instead, since his personal life has been
burned to the ground, Woods has some of
his humanity back. He doesn’t appear to be
as mean on the golf course as he once was.
There was a time when Tiger would have
ground Robert Rock into gravel, much less
allow him to actually win. Now, we come
to find that he had to withdraw from Doral
late into his final round with an Achilles
tendon problem in his left leg.
McIlroy still has his humanity and, in
fact, it’s what endears him to us. But it’s
the same humanity that doesn’t allow him
to cut up his opponents into sawdust. At
the WGC-Accenture Match Play, he was so
stoked to play Lee Westwood in the semifinals, that the victory over his friendly rival
ran him out of gas for the same-day final
against Hunter Mahan.
No offense to Mahan, but McIlroy should
have won – and was playing well enough to
win – the championship, 5 and 4. Instead,
he admitted to investing all of his emotion
into the Westwood match and had noth-
ing left. Do you suppose Woods would ever
admitted such a thing – to anyone?