There is now no doubt that Rory McIlroy is Ireland’s greatest sports hero of all time and a true world champion to boot.
His victory by just one shot in the PGA Championship at the Valhalla Country Club, near Louisville Kentucky, in the last of the 2014 golf majors, proved just how tough a customer he has become.
Legends such as Phil Mickleson were baying at his heels and young guns like Rickie Fowler were trying desperately to displace him but McIlroy proved once again when it comes to a shootout there is no one cooler under fire.
Indeed he is set to become of the world’s greatest sports figures. Unlike other stars such as Tiger Woods, McIlroy has revealed he has the temperament and mental toughness to handle that role.
Previous Irish heroes included Padraig Harrington who won three golf majors before fading, Ronnie Delaney who won the Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956 in the 1,500 meters and soccer titans like George Best, or Roy Keane.
McIlroy’s achievement however is world class in a way that no other Irish sportsman can claim.
At just 25-years-old McIlroy has already joined the pantheon of greats in golf, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and the older generation superstars like Bobby Jones.
McIlroy’s achievement at just 25 is phenomenal and the best is yet to come.
Consider this, McIlroy, Nicklaus, and Woods are the only three in history to:
- win a major by eight or more shots
- win a major at 16-under or better
- win three or more majors
- win three legs of career grand slam before age 25.
Jack Nicklaus, the gold standard, stated “who knows we could be talking 15 to 20 majors” when asked about McIlroy’s potential.
Nicklaus is right. McIlroy has won four majors in three years and has at least another ten years at the top of his physical prowess, just do the math.
Barring a personal disaster like what befell Woods whose marriage came apart amid tabloid headlines, McIlroy looks certain to reign supreme.
Woods has never recaptured his game, adversity has just seemed to strengthen McIlroy.
Indeed, he has felt the sting of the tabloid terrors, over his failed engagement and his sometimes erratic behavior when he was in a golf slump.
But to come through all that and win two majors on the trot is impressive evidence that, when it comes to it, McIlroy has the mental toughness that Woods did not when the pressure outside golf hit.
That is the key element of it. Both men were raised on golf, both had driven fathers who nurtured their son’s talents to the point of obsession.
Locked inside that bubble when an outside crisis hit Woods seemed ill equipped to deal with them once he couldn’t just golf his troubles away.
McIlroy showed an entirely different set of strengths, backing out of what would clearly have been a disastrous marriage and getting back to the fundamentals of his life.
His victory at the PGA was just another example of his greatness. All Irish should rejoice in the extraordinary talent who calls the Emerald Isle home. Rory McIlroy tougher than Tiger Woods, now world’s greatest golfer.