In a recent article of Golf Magazine Padraig Harrington made a comment that he felt Rory was more like Phil Mickelson than Tiger Woods. I find this a very interesting comment because Rory is so often compared to Tiger. For a while now many in the golf industry have coroneted him "the next Tiger."
When Tiger first started having success many in the media were quick to dub Tiger the next Jack Nicklaus. Tiger invited this comparison especially when telling everyone that Jack's major record of eighteen majors was his personal golfing goal. Sadly for Tiger this now means unless he hits the number of nineteen his career while wildly successful did not meet his own expectations. Tiger is of course very talented but has a work ethic and a mental toughness that may never be matched again. I can say that within my generation is many different sports Tiger has one of the toughest mental dexterities of any athlete in any sport. He made putts, but not just any putts, the toughest putts to make, all the time. He was incredible.
Phil Mickelson on the other hand, may have invited some of the comparison to Jack in the early days of his career when he won as an amateur. However, as Phil started to struggle early on in the majors and Tiger came onto the scene the comparisons stopped. Phil is now known more for being a fantastic talent and an extremely streaky player. Running very hot and sometimes very cold.
So the bigger question is Rory more like Tiger or Phil? Of course the simple answer is that he is his own player and we shouldn't compare. But what fun would that be? I think Padraig is right. Of course Rory is talented but his career looks more like his is going to be hot, and win majors by blowing away the fields, and cold and miss cuts. This has a trajectory closer to Phil's than Tiger's. The one key difference that I have to concede is Rory has had nowhere near the trouble winning majors as Phil did early in his career. Rory already has two and is poised to win many more. Still Rory is very streaky. He has already passed Tiger in missed cuts; although Tiger's record for missed cuts may never be touched it is really an incredible record. His streakiness much more closely resembles the career of Phil. So Rory looks like what Phil would have looked like without the 1999 to 2008 Tiger in his life.
Rory's challenges this year have a great deal to do with his swing. I said earlier this year that I thought Rory would struggle because of the equipment change to Nike. The equipment itself is not to blame. His swing has been giving him trouble particularly the driver it seems and his putting is not as good. Still, the equipment change has to play some mental games with him and may be causing him to press more than in the past. The first half of 2013 is now lost and only two majors remain on the schedule to salvage the year. I feel that Oak Hill is really not a great fit for his game so really only Murfield gives him a chance for a major this year.
I think there is no shame in the comparison to Phil for Rory. Phil is extremely popular with the fans because of his lovable loser persona. Rory can back this into extremely lucrative sponsorship deals, as he has already done with Nike. While many people see that Tiger makes more in endorsements each year, one place that Phil has Tiger beat easily is dollars per major won. Tiger and Phil's endorsement dollars are pretty close and if you divide by majors won Phil has a higher ratio. It goes to the fact that even Tiger is wildly popular Phil has made quite a career for himself not being the lead dog. Rory has the likeable personality that Phil has but doesn't seem quite as approachable as Phil is. I think that Rory would like to be like Tiger because he sees how much Tiger has won doing what he does, but chasing someone else's dream may not be very fruitful. Rory has done well not to set Jack's record as the one to pass, so I may be incorrect in my assessment.
I look forward to seeing the trajectory that Rory's career will take. He most certainly will win more majors and likely take the number one ranking from Tiger once Tiger starts to hit the moonlight of his career. Then the next young gun will come along and we will be comparing him to Tiger, Phil and maybe even Rory.
Who do you think Rory resembles, Phil or Tiger?
Photo credits: © Scott Halleran.