Derek Lawrenson: Now Tiger has the chance to rewrite McIlroy's story
21:30 GMT, 10 September 2012
What a good idea for Rory McIlroy to spend some time with the New York Knicks basketball team this week. He could do with someone to look up to, couldn’t he
Right now, from the dizzy heights of the summit of the world rankings, he has to look down quite a way before he comes to the No 2, Tiger Woods.
From No 1 to fifth-placed Adam Scott might not sound much but the reality is that McIlroy has amassed more than twice the points average managed by the Australian.
Top two: Tiger Woods may be second to Rory McIlroy, but the gap is a big one
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The really frightening thing for everyone
else, of course, is McIlroy’s age. You have to go all the way down to
55th place in the world rankings and 22-year-old American Bud Cauley
before you come to someone younger than McIlroy.
It is mind-boggling to think that at 23
he now has the same number of wins in America as someone as good as Sir
Nick Faldo mustered in his entire career. Indeed, with four US Tour wins
and two majors, McIlroy has already enjoyed a stellar career and yet he
has still got virtually all his prime time in front of him.
As for Tiger, this is the first time he and Rory have occupied the top two positions at the same time.
The worry is that their rivalry is in danger of becoming the sort Tiger used to enjoy with Phil Mickelson – in other words, not much of a rivalry at all given that one man is clearly better than the other.
However, it will be interesting to see what happens at the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week on a course more suited to Woods than McIlroy.
‘Rory’s putting on quite a show, isn’t he’ said Tiger graciously on Sunday and he is right. The past month has been like watching Woods at his best.
On three courses tailor-made to his gifts, Rory has taken full advantage, as Woods used to on courses that favoured him like Bay Hill, Firestone and Torrey Pines.
At the BMW Championship on Sunday, McIlroy won by two from Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson, with Tiger tied fourth. As quality opposition goes, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Man in form: McIlroy is fulfilling the promise of his youth and is the man to beat on the tour
So to the next test in Rory’s education. East Lake next week is one of those courses where he will have to rein in his naturally aggressive instincts. It is a place where Tiger has enjoyed plenty of success.
No handing out the $10million FedEx play-off bonus just yet, then. We will savour the brilliance of McIlroy’s three wins in 30 days but temper it with a note of caution. Let’s see what Tiger has to say next week.
St Andrews snubbed
No Rory McIlroy, no Luke Donald and no Graeme McDowell. All three added a certain lustre to the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last year, but the trio will be missing, along with Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, when the event is staged the week after the Ryder Cup.
No fewer than six tournaments have been lost on the European Tour this season and while the wretched euro economy bears much of the blame, the difficulties of attracting the world’s best players to compete must also have become a factor.
Not up for this cup: There will be no Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald or Graeme McDowell at the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews the week after the Ryder Cup
Imagine what this loyal sponsor must be thinking, for example, after putting up another huge prize fund and finding so many of the marquee names are taking the week off.
Europe winning the Ryder Cup would be a cause for great celebration but, with Lee Westwood likely to be the only glamour name on view, the toast at the Home of Golf might well be to absent friends.
Handy: Phil Mickelson
Bat and golf ball
Being allowed a sneak peek in the players’ lounge during a rain delay at the BMW last Thursday was a real treat, as a couple of pros considered good table-tennis players got to compete against America’s No 1, Timothy Wang.
Watching him take on the best shots of the right-handed Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, before politely swatting them away with spin and guile, reminded me of an evening out earlier this year with Matthew Syed, who competed for Britain in two Olympics at table tennis and is now a sportswriter.
He was waxing lyrical about the table tennis skills of the Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, who practises a lot at home. When he’d finished handing out the compliments, I asked Syed: ‘And how many points would he get against you if you were trying’ ‘Oh, none,’ he replied.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
'Two years ago, there was a bit of big brothering going on, but that will not be the case at Medinah. Not by any stretch of the imagination.'
Graeme McDowell, 33, with characteristic humour and eloquence, describes the changing nature of his Ryder Cup partnership with his boyish Northern Ireland countryman Rory McIlroy, 23.