News & ToursMay 5, 2015

McIlroy vs. Spieth: Here's hoping they try to 'beat each other's brains out,' for the good of the game

Sports loves its rivalries, and an intriguing one is percolating on the golf front, Rory McIlroy vs. Jordan Spieth.

"They've won the last three major championships," Brandel Chamblee said on Golf Channel on Monday. "There is no greater predictor of success than winning major championships at an early age. The fact that these two players are so well liked, and the fact that Jordan has stated the goal of toppling Rory [as No. 1 in the World Ranking], I think we have the potential at least for the greatest rivalry in the history of golf."

R&A via Getty Images

Spieth McIlroy.jpg

(Getty Images)

The caveat, as Chamblee noted, is "potential." Golf rivalries are tricky. It isn't often that the two best players in golf are playing together in the last group on Sunday, or even in contention together. And, of course, rivalries work better when animus is involved and it's difficult to imagine either McIlroy or Spieth having hostility towards anyone, let alone one another.

The Palmer-Nicklaus rivalry worked because they were thought to have disliked one another early on, though they deny that that was the case. But this is undeniable: "We've tried to beat each other's brains out the best we could," Nicklaus said a few years ago.

And on that front, well, McIlroy's stellar performance in winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play might have been fueled in part by the premature declaration of a new era in golf in the wake of Spieth's victory in the Masters.

If so, great. As the Tiger Woods' era wanes, golf needs a boost. It is the seed, at least, of a rivalry, one that golf's hierarchy is attempting to germinate by pairing the top two players in the World Ranking in the first two rounds of the Players Championship this week.

Here's hoping they try to beat each other's brains out, for the good of the game.

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