Rory McIlroy, Another Wasted Talent?

Is Rory McIlroy the next great choke artist in golf?

Rory McIlroy cemented his place in Masters history but not in the way that he would have liked. McIlroy did his best magic act as he disappeared off of the leaderboard faster than you could say Augusta. The young Irish “phenom” was the first player in a major to blow a four shot lead after three rounds in a major since the infamous Jean Van De Velde meltdown.

The excuses will be endless for Rory McIlroy especially considering his seemingly great rapport with the media. He’s too young, inexperienced, everyone has a bad day, Tiger was prowling, or maybe even it was too hot outside for the Irishman. The list is endless. Either way, those excuses may hold water for the time being but the big question that should be on everyone’s mind is whether McIlroy is another great golf talent cursed with the spell of the choke?

One bad round in an otherwise steady Masters tournament generally wouldn’t signal as much cause for concern, however this isn’t the first time that McIlroy has faltered under the pressure of a major. McIlroy shot a 9 under par 63 at St. Andrews in the 2010 first round of the British Open only to follow that up with an 80 in round two. He shot a 68 and 69 respectively over next two days, which left him in a tie for 3rd place.

It’s a scary thought to see the supposed next star in golf already having major issues with his nerves. After a couple of poor shots today McIlroy’s psyche was snapped like a fragile twig. That doesn’t happen to the great ones.

Nicklaus or Tiger aren’t collapsing the way McIlroy did yesterday afternoon. Even at 21.

It isn’t just the complete, utter breakdown that McIlroy went through. Of the golfers who sat above 4 under par to finish the tournament, there were only two other players on Sunday who shot over par. Those players were Fred Couples and Ross Fisher who ended up tied for 15th with McIlroy at 4 under.

What does it say about a player who shot an 80 while no one above 2 under par shot worse than a 73?

Moreover, aside from a very good final few holes in round 3, McIlroy was at best steady after his remarkable first round. He had ample opportunity to grab the tournament by the neck but time after time was unable to take advantage. Don’t the great ones run away from the field?

It would be sad for golf if Rory McIlroy soon became equated with such names as Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Anthony Kim. As I wrote in January, the PGA desperately needs another player to add to the Tiger-Mickelson couple but once again a challenger has yet to emerge.

As a fan it is frustrating to see guys constantly falter on Sunday. The days of excusing players based on the Tiger factor are over. It’s about time people start getting in through their thick heads that Tiger’s supposed God-like aura was not the reason golfers choke. The onus is all on the players themselves.

Tiger’s inability to step up in the manner that he has in the past has allowed more guys like Charl Schwartzel to “prove” that they have the chops, but what are the chances we see Schwartzel falling into the category of the Ben Curtis’ and Rich Beem’s of the world?

Rory McElroy needed nothing more than a half-decent round on Sunday to truly solidify his status as one of the PGA’s elite. The career defining win that has eluded the likes of Lee Westwood would have been a huge confidence booster for the 21-year-old McIlroy.

Maybe he just doesn’t have it in him. That’s not to say that he won’t ever win a major but with Gary Busey on the Celebrity Apprentice showing more mental stability than McIlroy it seems unlikely that this young talent will be anything more than a perennial underachiever.

With the amount of talent that this young man possesses it would be a shame to see it go to waste. In his short career Rory McElroy has shown nothing that should lead us to believe that he will be the next great thing in golf and it would appear as though he is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat if he wants to win a major anytime soon.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favor.

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PGA Needs More Than Tiger

Those were the days weren't they?

Tiger Woods and the PGA have been engaged in a steaming hot relationship ever since he burst onto the scene in 1996. However, as we all know this relationship has cooled off a tad, and by cooled off I mean that Tiger has stopped winning. Maybe they’re just taking a break. At least, that’s what golf fans are hoping for.

The PGA needs Tiger Woods as much as Tiger Woods needs golf. However, this marriage cannot last forever and professional golf is feeling the full effect of this “break” that the two sides have taken in their relationship.

For the PGA, Tiger Woods signifies better ratings, more sponsors, lots of money and all that other good stuff. The issue here is that, when Tiger Woods isn’t playing well or not playing at all, the PGA suffers mightily. Other than the diehard fan, most don’t care one bit about golf if Mr. Woods isn’t involved these days. The short-term memory that we humans possess has led us to forget the days when we watched and most importantly enjoyed golf without Tiger Woods. Granted, in those days there were other stars to make golf interesting.

There, of course, is an easy fix to this issue. Tiger Woods has got to start playing well. Problem solved. No biggie, right?

Naturally, if Tiger Woods starts playing well, we know that professional golf will become relevant once again, but what happens when if Tiger is never able to compete at a high level again?

Even if Tiger does come back strong and is at least a contending force on the scene for another 10 years golf needs something more.

The PGA needs a player who will make fans want to tune in despite Tiger’s absence in a tournament. They need a personality who can compete to the point of near dominance on a regular basis. It seems like the golf world is due for someone like that to come out, but it hasn’t happened yet.

A rivalry similar to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s would be ideal, but that may be a bit too much of a utopian fantasy for now.
You would have hoped that an Anthony Kim or Rory McIlroy could have been the third, except not awkward, wheel in this relationship. It is now coming on 15 years since a true star has broken out. Let’s get real, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh are not real stars. During their prime, they could contend on any given weekend, but they aren’t exactly what the sport needs.

I would like as much as anyone for Tiger Woods to come back and regain that number one status that he lost last season. Nevertheless, putting all our eggs in the Tiger basket each and every tournament is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Clearly there is no method to go out and find a brand new superstar to take the PGA by storm. It sure would be nice though wouldn’t it?

This relationship between Tiger and the PGA may not be at the point of stale yet, but it sure could use a little injection of life. Perhaps a third-party to spice things up. The ménage à trios may not have worked out too well for George and Jerry but for the PGA it might just be the perfect thing.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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And in this Corner, the Challenger is…

(Left to right) None of Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, nor Vijay Singh have been able to challenge Tiger on a consistent basis

Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia. It has been and still is a revolving door for players who could potentially be Tiger Woods’ version of Rafael Nadal. A player who has consistently challenged Tiger Woods in major championships has been absent throughout his career. There is much reason to believe that Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time but the fact that there has never been a true contender in the other corner of the ring makes you wonder if he really can be placed on the top of the pedestal.

Yesterday, Graeme Mcdowell outlasted a number of top players in the world to win the 2010 United States Open at Pebble Beach. Mcdowell came into the final round 3 shots behind Dustin Johnson, who was 6 under par after 54 holes. However, Dustin Johnson had what was possibly the biggest collapse in US open history. He posted an 82, which was the worst final round for a player leading after 54 holes. As in most other major championships, no one stepped up to the plate to take the tournament. Ernie Els, who at one point was at 3 under during the final round, eventually faded into the night finishing at +2. Phil Mickelson, who is known as both gambler as well as a perennial choker also had a very legitimate shot to win, but ended up at +3. The 391st ranked Gregory Havret out of France was very solid throughout the day, but on most days solid isn’t going to get the job done. Havret was the runner-up to Graeme Mcdowell, shooting a +1 for the day and finishing the tournament at +1. The US Open Champion Mcdowell did not by any means step up at all. He was given the tournament on a solid gold platter by his peers. Who could have predicted that Mcdowell could shoot a 3 over 74 on day 4 and still win the US Open? Not me.

Many of the players, including champion Graeme Mcdowell, blamed the tough course for the poor play. It was evident that this was partially the case but I think that the players poor play was equally to blame. If you watched the entire US Open you would have noticed that players were missing fairways, hitting bunkers, and things that you shouldn’t be blaming the course for. There is no excuse for not one player in the top 12 to shoot under par.

The most surprising play though came from Tiger Woods who started the day at -1 and ended up at +3. This sure doesn’t sound like the golfer that golf fans have come to know. Tiger Woods is best known for stepping up his play on the final day of a tournament and most notably in majors. However, after yesterday Tiger Woods is actually 0-43 in Majors when not leading after 3 rounds. Yes, Tiger Woods has won 14 majors when leading after 54 holes and on only one occasion has he given up a lead after 3 rounds of a major. Really though, what does this say about the competition that Tiger has had to face throughout his career?

Many people speculate that the reason players never really stepped it up to take a tournaments away from Tiger was a combination of Tiger’s uncanny mental toughness, skill, and intimidation factor.

Those reasons could not be farther from the truth. I think it is apparent that the reason for players not consistently upping their game a couple notches is because they are simply not good enough. In the Tiger generation there has not been one player with the talent and mental strength to challenge Tiger. None of it has to do with Tiger himself, Tiger just happens to be a much better all-around golfer than everyone else. It showed when Tiger was injured in 2008 and as usual players would do their best to cough up leads. It shows when Tiger is not in contention on the final day of tournaments and players still want to do their best impersonation of Santa Claus and gift wrap tournaments.

Well you must be asking yourself what this has to do with Tiger not being the greatest of all time. If he is a way better golfer than anyone else on tour, how could he eventually not go down as the best ever? One name. Jack Nicklaus. Unlike Tiger, the Golden Bear played during quite possibly the most competitive period in golf history. Nicklaus was always faced with legitimate players who stepped up their game when it mattered most, rather than guys who just roll over when the going gets tough. With Tiger there have been players who have stepped it up but as I said, not on a regular basis. Names like Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang, and Zach Johnson come to mind, but where are they now?

In all stages of Jack Nicklaus’ career he faced players that will go down as some of the best ever. During the early stages there was Arnold Palmer and Gary Player who each won 7 and 9 major championships respectively. Then you have a guy who came along by the name of Tom Watson. Watson is still making cuts and even contending in majors to this day. Tom Watson has won 8 majors in his career. The last true contender in Nicklaus’ career was Severiano Ballesteros who “only” won 5 majors.

In Nicklaus’ quarter century of golf supremacy he won a total of 18 majors. What people fail to see when this stat is presented to them is how many times he was pushed to the brink by some of the all-time great golfers. Jack Nicklaus was the runner-up an astounding 8 times to just those 4 players I mentioned above. Compare that to Tiger Woods who has barely even had a Seve Ballesteros to rival him.

Probably the most notable rival for Tiger Woods is Phil Mickelson who has won 4 majors. But at a certain point in his career it was thought that maybe Phil Mickelson just didn’t have the mental make-up to win a major tournament. Doesn’t sound like a true contender to me. A couple other notables that I mentioned are Vijay Singh and Ernie Els who each have 3 majors. This is the “big” 3 that Tiger has had to take on in his career.

Back in his prime when Tiger was winning major championships by double-digit strokes I’m not sure that he could have been beaten by anyone. But those times were not long lived. In the days when Tiger had to really start fighting for his majors he was still not challenged by anyone. When Tiger would go into the lead on Sunday and not come up with his best stuff there was no one to take it away from him, which is why Tiger is 14 for 15 when leading after 54 holes in a major. The one time that Tiger lost after 3 rounds was when he gave up a 2 stroke lead to Y.E. Yang, who shot who a very mediocre 70 to win the PGA championship.

There is no doubt that Tiger has as good a mental make-up as any champion in the history of sports. In the league of guys who come up big at big times, Tiger is right up there with the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer. The one thing that was missing was a rival like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. I can’t recall a time in a big tournament where Tiger Woods went shot for shot with an “arch rival” to see who could take the tournament away from the other. There has been nothing like the 2008 Wimbledon final. Anthony Kim? Ryo Ishikawa? Are either of these guys the next great thing in golf? Through the law of averages you would think the golf world is due for another great golfer and a true challenger.

Tiger Will Never Be The Same

This weekend at the US Open Phil Mickelson once again has an opportunity to overtake Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career. However, even if Phil Mickelson or anyone else on the tour for that matter does not take away the No. 1 from Tiger Woods in the years to come, we will not be seeing the Tiger of old ever again.

The perception by fans and media of Tiger Woods has been forever changed after the infamous marital infidelities that were exposed near the end of 2009. Subsequently, he took an indefinite lay off from golf. In March, Tiger announced that he would be playing in the 2010 edition of the Masters where he finished 4th place despite the long absence from competitive play. It was at this moment after the 2010 Masters when I realized we would never see the Tiger Woods that the golf world fell in love ever since he burst onto the scene with his first major victory at the 1997 Masters.

Immediately after his final round at Augusta this year Tiger Woods was interviewed and expressed his disappointment with his 4th place finish. However, during the interview Tiger was not just disappointed, he was obviously angry. This was a Tiger Woods that I had never seen before. You knew that he wanted to come back and show the world that he was still the games most dominate player despite not playing for a significant period of time. I’ve always loved Tiger Woods and mainly because on the course he was the most genuine player out there. He is not your typical golf personality as he is never afraid to show his emotions, whether it be joy or frustration. To the media though, Tiger Woods was arguably the most boring sports interview out there. Never one to stir up controversy during an interview. During this interview after his final round at the masters however, Tiger did not attempt to conceal his feelings. This was a man who had lost a reputation that he had worked his whole life for. A man who felt that he didn’t even have the one thing that made him truly great. This man we saw that day was the real Tiger Woods.

Throughout Tiger Wood’s entire personal ordeal he was my still my favourite golfer. I figured that he let his superstardom get to his head, which it did. A superstar that is really horny. I was cheering for Tiger during the 2010 Masters. I am not condoning anything that he did because what he did was horrible, but I kept giving Tiger the benefit of the doubt. I wanted the golfer back that I had been cheering for since I was a little kid. Not anymore. It may sound stupid but that one interview, which I can’t find, pushed me over the edge. For me, half of liking a player has to do with his personality and I can’t cheer for an athlete that is a flat out jerk. I don’t care how great a player you are I am never ever going to root for guys like Kobe Bryant and Terrell Owens.

Tiger will never be the same to me in that regards, but for the rest of you, Tiger will never be the same golfer either. Gone are the days of “Tiger Slams” and 12 stroke victories and they aren’t coming back. First of all, Woods is just not as good a player as he was just a few years ago. At the 2009 PGA Championship Tiger blowing a lead after 54 holes at a major for the first time in his career to virtually unknown Y.E. Yang. I think at this point we can all agree that Tiger isn’t one to choke. Unlike so many other golfers, Tiger doesn’t choke, he loses. And it’s fact that Tiger is losing more and more as the years go by. Tiger is constantly being out-driven by his partner, and he does not come out of the thick stuff with the strength and force that he used to have. I think we all sometimes forgot that Tiger is getting older. He will be 35 years old in December and obviously with age comes deterioration in play. Well I guess that’s not always the case in golf. Phil Mickelson is arguably playing the best golf his career as he is going to be 40 years old on Wednesday. Generally though you are going to see players decline as they get older.

I do believe that Tiger Woods will eventually break Jack Nicklaus’ major record of 18. Woods is currently at 14. However, it looks as though it is going to be majors scattered over a number of years. It is not going to be as fun watching golf without Tiger being his same old self on the course. By no means has there been a player in any sport who was as fun to watch dominate as Tiger Woods was. It will be sorely missed. As a person, I will never see Tiger Woods as the same entertaining character. I’m not sure about you guys, but I’m only going to be seeing a troubled, unpleasant jerk.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, I’m now on twitter! Follow me at http://www.twitter.com/paintstheblack

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