by Jeff Skinner
This was the way it was supposed to be. In 2009 when Rory McIlroy won on the European Tour as a nineteen year old he was christened as the “Celtic Tiger.” He was going to be the one to challenge Tiger Woods for the top spot in golf. We all envisioned the Tigers, both Woods and Celtic, going head to head against each other with victories and major championships on the line.
Rory lived up to his end of the deal by winning all over the world, with two wins on both the European and PGA Tours in the past two years. He lapped the field at the U.S. Open at Congressional last summer and entered the realm of superstardom. Woods failed to hold up his end of the bargain as he fell from his pedestal with a very loud thump.
Tiger and Rory were finally on the same page on Sunday at The Honda Classic as they thrilled us with an exciting finish. Rory was poised to grab the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings with a win and he teed off on a blustery day with a two shot lead. Woods, who had an up and down week started nine shots back but finally put a complete round together.
He shot a career best final round eight under par and a closing eagle brought him to within one shot of the lead. But as the roar for Tiger’s eagle subsided, Rory rolled in a birdie putt to keep his lead at two shots.
McIlroy heard the cheers for his competitors all day as Lee Westwood carded a seven under 63 to go with Tiger’s 62. But McIlroy stood strong as he fought the wind and the pressure of having so much on the line. His only slip was a bogey on twelve but he got it right back with a birdie at thirteen and parred his way in to victory.
It was exciting to see Rory and Tiger go at it. But it looked to be a one sided match as Rory was unflappable. Neither the winds nor the roars would undo his steady play. With Woods starting so far back he needed to go very low and he did just that. But McIlroy knew that par was a good score from where he stood and he managed to get up and down to save par all day.
McIlroy is now the top golfer in the World Rankings and with a major on his resume there is no doubt that he is the best golfer in the world. Only Tiger earned this spot at a younger age and with Tiger’s performance on Sunday he could finally be finished with his “swing change.”
This was how it was supposed to be, only it was Rory that was expected to be doing the chasing, not Tiger. Rory is number one and Tiger has found his game. Oh what a season it could be.