Rory and Tiger

So Rory McIlroy won an absolutely historic US Open today, going wire to wire and finishing 16 shots under par. All in all, a spectacular weekend of golf from a kid who nearly won the Masters in April but choked away his lead on the last day. The lead today was so big that he would have needed a Greg Normanesque meltdown to have given it away. And the headlines on ESPN.com? "He's only just begun."

Just begun what, exactly?

The reason Tiger Woods was so fascinating before his personal life exploded was the fact that he was unstoppable. Through injury, through courses designed to make him lose, through caddy and coaching and club changes, Woods was basically unbeatable for 10 years. His streak of dominance is unlike anything else in sports. There is a good chance he was the best athlete I will ever see by virtue of sheer winning - better than Jordan or Brady or Pujols or whomever else you want to hold up as the best. The compelling thing about Tiger was not that he was going to win - that was a foregone conclusion. It was by how much, with what ballsy shot or insane luck. It wasn't a question of if he would win the most majors of all time, but when.

And as soon as he started to fade, the media went looking for "the next Tiger." In the same way that Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were all the next Jordan, journalists have been looking to cast anyone as a successor to Tiger's dominance. None of those NBA stars went on to win 6 championships. In fact, they have less than 6 combined.

Rory McIlroy has just won his first Major at age 22. Tiger notched his first victory at the Masters, the tournament McIlroy coughed away, at age 21. He then won 13 more, with relative ease. It took Jack Nicklaus 25 years to win his 18 majors. It took Tiger 14 years to win his 14 majors. Easy math, right? If Rory wants to catch up, he'd better get crackin'.

Tiger is number two on the all-time Majors list, as everyone knows. Of course, he is the only active member of the top 10, and that's a top 10 that includes five dead guys. There is a distinct possibility that Tiger will come back and absolutely annihilate Nicklaus' record - remember, he was on pace to do so with ease before taking off what amounted to two years from golf.

McIlroy should not be anointed the next anyone at this stage in his career. He is not the savior of the PGA, he will never draw ratings for CBS like Tiger could, and he will probably fall way, WAY short of 14 Majors. But if the media wants to pump him up as the next Tiger, they better give him a nickname. Perhaps Roary the Lion?

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