Rory McIlroy stands a good chance to be part of golf’s next rivalry.
But with whom?
“There’s a lot of great, young players that will be playing in majors for the next 20, 25 years that can really make their mark on the game,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “So yeah, I wouldn’t mind if I was always compared to someone – or not compared to someone else, but if my name was mentioned.”
McIlroy is a great student of golf history, so he knows all about rivalries – Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. He also knows that it’s not always about going head-to-head.
Nicklaus and Palmer first competed in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, and they were in a U.S. Open playoff two years later at Oakmont. But they are just over 10 years apart in age. Faldo took down Norman at the 1990 British Open, and more famously at the 1996 Masters. Woods played in the final group with Mickelson at Augusta National when he won the 2001 Masters for his unprecedented sweep of the majors.
McIlroy said what made the Woods-Mickelson rivalry was their records more than their head-to-head meetings.
“If you think about it, over the past 15, 20 years, how many times have they actually went head-to-head?” he said. “It’s not been that many. So golf doesn’t create … what maybe tennis would or some other sports. But there are still going to be guys coming through that are going to break through and win. If you guys, or the public, want to build a rivalry between people, the credentials have to be pretty similar.”
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth have been mentioned as possibilities.
Fowler was runner-up in two straight majors and became the first player to finish in the top five at all four majors without winning. Spieth went from no status to a spot on the Presidents Cup team in one year. Through it all, both have one PGA Tour win apiece.
“I would say Rory is definitely a step ahead of me – or two, or four majors,” Fowler said. “I definitely have some work to do. But there is a potential of him and I being able to play against each other for a long time to come, both being the same age. He turned pro a little bit before me. And like I said, he’s won a few more times than me.”
FURYK KNOWS: Jim Furyk qualified for his ninth straight Ryder Cup team, so he knows as well as anyone how boisterous the fans can be in Europe.
And they can be funny, too.
“We go to the first tee and they will start poking fun at us,” Furyk said. “Some of them are really good. I’ve laughed. A couple times they have taken a pretty good shot at me, but it was funny and I laughed on the tee. They’re good fun and pretty good fans.”
An example, please?
“It was really foggy last time we were at Celtic Manor and we couldn’t see the fairway,” Furyk said. “And they were holding up play on the first hole. And someone yelled out, `Just follow your nose, Jim.’ I thought it was perfect. I about fell over laughing, and the crowd I think enjoyed the fact that I saw the humor.”
CADDIE PLANS: Adam Scott will complete three full seasons with Steve Williams as his caddie, and he hopes there will be another.
Williams has hinted at retirement in recent years, even suggesting a part-time schedule.
The latter won’t work.
“As far as part time and everything, I don’t think we’ve really touched on that,” Scott said. “I think you’re either in or you’re out. I think can talk him into coming back next year, hopefully.”