Rory McIlroy steps closer towards Tiger Woods status

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Rory McIlroy emulated the feat of Tiger Woods in 2005 by dominating and leading the Open golf championship at Hoylake from start to finish.

Having become the third youngest player to achieve three major titles—the other two being Woods himself and the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus—you would think McIlroy is now well on the path to similar greatness. But there are important differences.

The key differences

Nicklaus was 23 when he won his third Major plus he had two amateur majors to his name. Woods was a year older when he won his third different major but a year younger than Nicklaus (25) when he won the final leg of his first Grand Slam.

In the following year he became the only man to ever hold all four titles at the same time.

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Nicklaus went on to win 18 majors, a record, including thee Grand Slams. Woods has 14 wins and also three slams - and hopes to win more. Can McIlroy expect to emulate these numbers from his predecessors?

Can McIlroy match it?

In his favour he is young enough, undoubtedly has the talent and perhaps doesn't have a posse of all-time greats ready to pounce like Nicklaus did. On the other hand he has been seen to blow up pretty dramatically under pressure, the last time being just a week ago at the Scottish Open when he followed a first round record 64 with a 78.

And, of course, no-one who follows golf can forget his horrendous implosion at Augusta in 2011 when he threw away a four-shot lead going into the last round, hitting four fives, a six and a triple-bogey seven in an 80 stroke final 18 holes. Had he held that round together we could now be viewing him as the youngest Grand Slam winner in golf history.

He certainly grew from that, coasting to that 2011 US Open win and putting in an assured performance over all four days at Hoylake. But the Scottish Open swings of fortune plus a more minor faltering in the Honda Classic back in March show that the capacity for inconsistency is still there.

Tiger respect

Tiger Woods himself likens McIlroy's mercurial brilliance to that of Phil Mickelson, the only other contemporary player with three of the four Grand Slam titles to his name. At 44 he is probably unlikely to complete the slam now but does have a respectable five majors to his name.

McIlroy should certainly find that well within his compass. Whether he can aspire to the heights of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods is another matter. 

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Rory McIlroy
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