Twenty-five-year-old Rory McIlroy didn’t just accept the torch from Tiger Woods, he yanked it out of his fist. His win at the PGA Championship last week was McIlory’s second major championship win of 2014 and the fourth of his short career.
He has won four of the last 11 majors contested and the last two consecutive majors at Royal Liverpool and Valhalla.
Guess who else also won all four major championships by the age of 26? You got it, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
Fellow Irishmen Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell announced the prowess of the young Rory while he was still a teenager, winning junior tournaments around the world. They saw the greatness even then and predicted lofty achievements for the lad from Holywood.
They were right.
Jack Nicklaus won four majors while still 25 years old, but did not complete his first career grand slam until he was 26, with a win in the 1966 British Open.
Bobby Jones won five majors prior to reaching 26 years of age, but didn’t finish off the career grand slam until he was 28.
With four major championships McIlroy joins a very elite group of golfers. Only 28 players have won four or more major championships in their career.
McIlroy has also won majors by large margins. He won the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship by eight shots. By comparison, Woods won the 1997 Masters by nine shots and the 2000 U.S. Open by 10 strokes.
In 1962 Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open over Arnold Palmer at Oakmont and overtook Palmer as the best player in the world. Nicklaus was 10 years younger than the “King,” and it was a hard pill for “Arnie’s Army” to swallow.
McIlroy is 17 years younger than Woods, but no one expected a successor to be found that could come close to matching Woods phenomenal accomplishments this quickly.
With Woods missing the cut at Valhalla, McIlroy also had to beat another Hall of Fame member down the stretch, Phil Mickelson.
McIlroy enters a much higher category than any other golfer currently playing on the PGA Tour. His competition now becomes past champions and he must find his place in the record books beside, Jones, Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus and Woods.
We witnessed the passing of the torch from the 38-year-old Woods to a much younger and healthier, Rory McIlroy.
(This article first posted at eDraft.com)