Rory McIlroy / Getty ImagesRory McIlroy has been to golf's pinnacle. He knows what it's like to be the top-ranked golfer in the world and throttle a major championship field.
With the exception of maybe Tiger Woods, nobody has taken the sport by storm quite like McIlroy has at such a young age. Only 22, it's easy to see why people have the Ulsterman pegged for greatness.
When you're the second-ranked golfer in the world -- he could be No. 1 again at the end of this week if things fall into place -- and already have a major win under your belt, people expect that you eat, sleep and breathe your profession.
Quite honestly, there really isn't any other way to get to the top than to make some serious sacrifices and put everything you have into becoming the best. Some guys thrive on winning, while others seem content just to keep their card and make a nice check.
It's difficult to strike a perfect work and life balance when you're No. 1 and constantly trying to fend off your peers, but somehow, some way Rory McIlroy has made it work. He's dating one of the most famous tennis players on the planet in Caroline Wozniacki, and always seems to find time to put the clubs away for extended periods of time to decompress.
"I'm trying to find the perfect balance between golf and having a normal life," McIlroy said before the start of the Wells Fargo Championship. "For me, there's more to life than just golf."
If Tiger Woods had said those words at the age of 22, the golf world would have gone haywire. The best player in the world saying he wants to have a life off the course?!? That quote had to be a mistake.
For all the comparisons people try to make between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the two are nothing alike. Sure, they both managed to win their first major championship at an early age. But unlike Tiger, who was driven to be the best early on, McIlroy wants to have it both ways.
He wants to be the best ... but not at the expense of burning himself out and walking away from the game at 30. And he should be applauded for keeping things in perspective.
If you'll recall, it was only last year that he tried to play nine tournament in 11 weeks, jet-setting across the globe from Korea to Bermuda at the end the season. McIlroy made it clear after the insane schedule that he'd be taking time for himself in 2012.
He's certainly been a man of his word, playing once in the past seven weeks, spreading out his starts during the early season. During his time off, he even found time to take a two-week trip back home to Northern Ireland and left the clubs at home in Florida.
Some might question his lack of desire to be the best, wondering if he's spending too much time having fun and not enough time working on his game. But you have to remember he's just 22; he still has plenty of time to grind on the range and stack up tournaments.
It's not like the extended time off has hurt his game. (His T40 at the Masters was only the second time he's finished outside the top 10 in his last 14 events, dating back to last season). No matter where you stand on the issue, it's refreshing to see one of the best players strike an on and off the course balance at such a young age.