If you spent even a moment last week watching the U.S. Open, you realized something special was happening. A young 22-year-old was winning the hardest tournament in golf just two months after collapsing at the most historic tournament in golf, and he was doing so in a fashion we haven't seen in over a decade.
It was special. It was memorable. It was beautiful. But it was no Tiger Woods.
Yes, the number Rory McIlroy finished at was the best ever at the U.S. Open, something he'll be able to hang his hat on for years to come. And his four rounds in the 60s was something Tiger has never done in any of his wins at this event, but the comparisons started on Friday and they haven't stopped, and while I love McIlroy, and hope he continues to win the big events so the game starts growing again, making Tiger comparisons is like thinking your kid is going to play in the NBA just because he threw a couple of balls through the net in Pop-A-Shot.
He has one major. Tiger has 14. He has two PGA Tour event wins. Tiger has 71. And obviously we understand that McIlroy is 13 years Tiger's junior, but the expectations need to recede. This is one great week. McIlroy will need a lot more of these to start the talk of 14 or even, gulp, 18.
I've seen people compare Rory's performance to what Tiger did at Augusta or what he did at Pebble Beach, and that's fine. They're comparable. Both went out at a young age and destroyed golf courses that weren't meant to be destroyed. I even heard someone mention that Olympic Club, site of the 2012 U.S. Open, needs to be Rory-proofed, which was cute and fine after what they did to Augusta after '97.
But this is one week, not a career, and we all need to understand that. Runs make careers. Longevity makes careers. Understanding history makes careers. Winning one major championship, even if it was in this type of style, doesn't make your career (well, it doesn't if you're McIlroy, who does seem to have the game to win multiple majors).
It's just nearly impossible for me to see someone like Rory winning upwards of 10 majors, because of a lot of things. The talent pool is so deep now that even if he gets hot again, someone like Dustin Johnson or Matteo Manassero could equal his play and turn the week into some type of "Duel in the Sun" moment. McIlroy is talented, and maybe has the best upside of anyone in golf, but he still is playing against people that can beat him, and beat him often. Tiger had that, but not to this extent.
Also, Rory is going to have to care about his place in history. These kids make so much money (so. much. money.) now, that in five or 10 years, the idea of winning and working hard might slip away. I'm not saying it will happen to all of them, but it will surely happen to some of them, and maybe Rory will be one of those. Rory, along with Manassero, Rickie Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa, are as close to child actors as we have in golf, and they'll have to really want to be something special in this game to continue playing at a high level well into their 30s. Face it, as competitive as Tiger is, he's slipped, even if the reasons aren't all about him wanting to win, and who knows when he will be back to 100 percent, if ever.
I'd love to see Rory win the British Open. I'd love to see him snag the PGA Championship. I think he is the type of kid that can recreate the game of golf once more, and add his name to the list of Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods. But that's hope, not reality, and for now, he has as many majors as Steve Jones and Michael Campbell.
Let's save the comparisons for when he starts doing the unthinkable, and for now just praise him for being him.