At age 37, Tiger Woods is considered to be the greatest professional golfer since Jack Nicklaus. Rory McIlroy, with 7 professional wins (including two majors) at age 23, may be the greatest of the next generation. The two go head-to-head in the first two rounds of The Barclays, played August 23-24, 2012 at Bethpage Black. This is one fan's comparison of three keys to this much-anticipated match-up, with a prediction of who will prevail.
Physicality: At 6'1" and 185 pounds, Tiger Woods may appear more imposing than Rory McIlroy, at 5'10" and 160 pounds. However, McIlroy is 6th on Tour in driving distance at 309 yards, more than 12 yards further on average than Woods. Those of us who have passed age 37 ourselves, can appreciate that Tiger is not likely to be in as good a physical condition as Rory, his junior by 14 years. Rory is more likely to feel as fresh on the 18th hole as on the first. Advantage: McIlroy.
Winning Record: It's hard to ignore Woods' 74 career PGA and 12 international victories, but it is an unfair comparison to the much younger McIlroy. Winning percentage is a more appropriate measurement. Tiger has won a staggering 25% of his career PGA starts, 74 out of 289. McIlroy's four victories in 50 events is a respectable 8%, but doesn't begin to measure up. If we limit our comparison to events in 2012, Tiger leads again at 20% (3 of 15) compared to Rory at 17% (2 of 12). You may think Rory McIlroy has an advantage, coming off his victory at the PGA Championship, but he has never won back-to-back tournaments in his professional career. Advantage: Woods.
Bethpage Black: The Black Course at Bethpage State Park, in Farmingdale, New York, site for The Barclays, has also played host to the US Open in 2002 and 2009. In the 2009 Open Rory McIlroy played a very solid tournament, posting scores of 72-70-72-68, to finish two-over par and tied for 10th place. Tiger Woods, in the same event, stumbled to a 74 in the first round, then went 69-68-69, finishing even-par and tied for sixth. Seven years earlier, in the 2002 Open at Bethpage Black, Woods claimed a wire-to-wire victory, finishing three under-par with scores of 67-68-70-72. Tiger is one of only two players* to be under par overall in the two US Opens played at Bethpage. He clearly knows the course. Advantage: Woods.
Prediction: Rory McIlroy is celebrating his PGA Championship and may be distracted by a certain tennis pro. Tiger Woods will be more focused on the task at hand. At the end of play on Friday, August 24th, Tiger will be listed higher on the leaderboard than Rory.
* The other player to be under par overall in the 2002 and 2009 US Opens is Phil Mickelson, who finished as runner-up in both tournaments.
Harold Andrews has played golf (competitively and recreationally) for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus to be the greatest golfer of all time.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- Rory McIlroy
- Bethpage Black
- Jack Nicklaus
- The Barclays