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Rory This might seem like a bet only Gerry


McIlroy would make. Sure, actually putting down in writing


that you expect someone to win at least 10 more majors is a special of kind of crazy talk usually reserved for caps lock and Comic Sans tirades, or politically charged Facebook rants. Only three players in the history of


golf have won at least 10 professional majors: Walter Hagen (11), Tiger Woods (14) and Jack Nicklaus (18). Ben Hogan’s career would only get


McIlroy to 13. So McIlroy’s going to triple or qua-


druple his current major total? And still catch the active Woods? Let’s break out the comic sans, and


find Gerry’s bookie. 1. McIlroy is one of the three best talents the


game has ever seen. When you keep showing up on lists that


only include Nicklaus and Woods, it stops becoming hyperbole and blasphemy, and starts becoming prophecy. At the age of 25, only Nicklaus, Woods and McIlroy have: • Won a major by eight or more shots


(McIlroy’s done it twice) • Won a major at 16 under or better


(McIlroy’s done it twice) • Won three or more majors (McIlroy’s


got four, plus a shot at the Masters in April) • Won three legs of the grand slam


(McIlroy can complete the career grand slam at the Masters) That’s a special makeup of runaway


skill and a desire to annihilate. Phil Mickelson never won a major by more than three. Tom Watson’s largest margin was four. Even Arnold Palmer and Gary Player couldn’t come within two strokes of McIlroy’s first two major routs. McIlroy has that dominant and


demoralizing ability to win a major by Thursday night. Yes, the 21-year-old McIlroy had a lit-


tle Sergio Garcia in him. McIlroy backed up a record-tying 63 at St. Andrews with an 80 in the first two rounds of the 2010 British Open. And he left Augusta National crying in 2011 after emphatically throwing away a four-shot lead Sunday with another 80.


But forged by those devastating losses, McIlroy can now handle rosy and prickly.


He can beat your brains in, or go all 15 rounds. McIlroy didn’t collapse when he heard footsteps at the British Open in July, and he rallied from three strokes down on the back nine with heroic shots to wrestle away the PGA in August. Combine McIlroy’s nose for winning the biggest events with the way he can pummel a golf course, and we’re looking at an all-timer. Every heard of a “Rory line”? It’s what


envious and awe-struck caddies call the aggressive and daring target lines McIlroy takes off the tee. And now analytics have figured out how to quantify what a different game McIlroy plays. A stat called strokes-gained driving


calculates that McIlroy picks up 1.5 shots on the field every round based purely on his advantage off the tee. Add that to his pure iron play (his 0.7


strokes gained on approaches ranks 11th) and his streaky, but improving putting (his 0.5 strokes gained on putting ranks 19th), and McIlroy is gaining 2.9 shots on the


Woods stopped winning majors when he was 32. McIlroy can give us another five to seven years of great golf after that.


field every round. (Only McIlroy’s short game can be considered average at 0.2 strokes gained, which ranks 60th.) In short, the 5-foot-10, 160-pound


McIlroy is the longest and straightest driver we’ve ever seen. McIlroy’s driver is Thor’s hammer. 2. Woods is not going to win another major. No one will ever take golf by storm the


way Hurricane Eldrick did. Woods had a downright mythical


amateur career, and his 11 years of wiping out the competition between 1997 and 2008 is one of the most impressive and intimidating onslaughts in sports history. Woods possessed an aura of invinci-


bility, culminating with his 91-hole U.S. Open victory in 2008 on a broken leg. But then he broke. Woods has gone six years without a major while nursing significant and chronic injuries to his Achilles, knee, neck, elbow and back. He’s missed nearly two full seasons of majors. His swing was once the David of golf—admired, studied and emulated.


FALL 2014 / NCGA.ORG / 9


Now, it’s aging as well as a carton of


milk. (Or is it on the carton of milk? It’s been missing for a while.) His bulked-up body has swallowed up his swing like Pacman. Woods once painted the sky with any shot he could dream up. Now he is sadly reduced to lashing violently at the ball, and the only shot he can control is a leaky cut.


The number for McIlroy to chase is 14. 3. McIlroy is not going to change his swing,


injure himself attempting to join the Navy Seals, or get caught up in the most explosive sports tabloid story ever. This is how McIlroy wins. Woods stopped winning majors when he was 32. McIlroy can give us another five to


seven years of great golf after that. McIlroy will never win 79 times on


the PGA Tour. He’ll never win seven straight events, or rally from seven down with seven to play, or develop the insane li- brary of hole-outs and jacked-up fist pumps Woods did. McIlroy will never be the clutch


putter Woods was in his prime, or hole an impossible chip shot at the Masters by one rotation. But McIlroy survived an equipment


change (and a toothache) during a lost 2013, as well as a messy public breakup with his fiancée. If that’s his fire hydrant, look out. Rory, protect that prized swing of


yours like it’s the David. And then go take down Goliath.


KEVIN MERFELD is the assistant director of communications and marketing at the NCGA.


PHOTO: AP


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