Is McIlroy in the early stages of a Tiger-like run? Let us count the similarities
__By Sam Weinman
There's always some idiot claiming that Rory McIlroy is poised to dominate golf the way Tiger Woods did a dozen years ago.
Allow me to be that idiot.
*When Woods won his second major at the 1999 PGA, it was the start of a historic run. Should we expect the same from McIlroy? Photos by Getty Images
OK, to be fair, no one can reasonably expect any golfer to rattle off four-straight majors as Woods did between the 2000 U.S. Open and the 2001 Masters. But with McIlroy's third win in four starts on Sunday, it's worth noting the remarkable similarities between the run the Northern Irishman is currently on, and the one Woods began in late summer 1999.
-- Both players followed up dominant, landscape-changing maiden major championship victories (Woods in the 1997 Masters, McIlroy in the 2011 U.S. Open) with what might be described as "a readjustment phase." For Woods, that meant a 1998 season in which he won only once on tour. For McIlroy, it was a lackluster period earlier this season in which he missed four of five cuts.
-- Both players emerged from those trying periods with a convincing win in the season's final major, Woods by holding off Sergio Garcia in a memorable Sunday duel in the 1999 PGA at Medinah; McIlroy with his eight-shot romp at Kiawah.
-- Both players, newly emboldened by major win No. 2, used it as a springboard into the rest of the season. Two weeks after his win at Medinah, Woods won the tournament now known as the Bridgestone Invitational, then finished '99 with wins at Disney, the Tour Championship, and the American Express Championship at Valderrama (he then opened the 2000 season with two more wins, extending his win streak to six). As Bill Fields wrote in Golf World after Medinah: "Woods simultaneously has refined his game and grown more comfortable with the glare he works under since his 12-stroke victory at Augusta National."
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McIlroy, meanwhile, has followed up his own PGA win with back-to-wins in the Deutsche Bank and the BMW to virtually lock up Player of the Year honors. The scariest part, though, is McIlroy's done it in a way that suggest he's building toward something bigger. "The more you put yourself in this position, and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies, it becomes normal," McIlroy said. "And it feels like this is what you're supposed to do."
-- Both players were 23.
The similarities only go so far, of course. Woods' Tiger Slam, what is widely considered the greatest golf ever played, came on the heels of a dramatic swing overhaul. McIlroy has undergone no such reinvention
Also, McIlroy's two major championship wins have both come on rain-softened big ballparks, where his power and towering ball flight have given him a decided advantage. He has yet to show an ability to win on a diverse set of layouts like Woods did when he won at Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, and Valhalla in 2000. In other words, with Merion, among other courses, looming on the 2013 major schedule, McIlroy still has plenty to prove.