PGA Needs Woods-McIlroy Rivalry

By Steve Silverman
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Rory McIlroy is not infallible, even though he won the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes and regained the No. 1 player in the world honors.

Tiger Woods is not finished, even though he has not won a major championship in more than four years.

The knee-jerk reaction is prevalent in all of sports, but it seems like it’s the life blood of golf on the PGA tour.  A few weeks ago, golfers were covering their mouths in mock-horror because McIlroy was going through a slump and wasn’t the golfer he appeared to be when he won the 2011 U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods has won three tournaments this year, but because none of them are majors, his legion of critics likes to dump cold water over his head and render him as insignificant.

Those same critics – most notably NBC know-it-all Johnny Miller – will take a critical tone with Tiger when discussing his golf game when he is not in first place. However, if he’s winning a tournament, they sing his praises in front of the microphones.

None of this matters to Woods, who is his own harshest critic. He demands perfection from himself and when he is in a position to contend in the final two rounds of a major tournament and then does not deliver, he is not a pleasant person to be around.

Still, this has been an excellent year for Woods by all standards other than his and major tournaments won.

He is the tour’s leading money winner with $4.8 million already banked this season. He leads the tour with 2,269.3 FedEx points, scoring average and Ryder Cup Points. He is the second-ranked golfer in the world.

The biggest problem for Woods over the long haul is likely to be his health. He has had more bouts of knee surgery than your average NFL linebacker and there’s no reason to think that he is completely healthy in that area and won’t suffer any more injuries.

However, if Woods can avoid the surgeon’s knife prior to next year’s majors, it seems likely he will resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus’s career record of 18 wins in grand slam events.

McIlroy is also the real deal and is probably the best of the great European players who come over to play the PGA tour.

What golf fans really want to see is a series of pitch battles between Woods and McIlroy over the next 2-to-3 years in which both players are at their best and go at in the majors.

That’s the best way to create some real interest in golf.

When Woods is playing the game the way he can, there is an electricity that the tour doesn’t see at other times. But put him together with a red-hot McIlroy and golf will take off again.

While it won’t be the same kind of format, when the Ryder Cup convenes in September in Medinah, Ill., golf fans will have a chance to see Woods and McIlroy meet in a U.S. vs. Europe competition.

Team competition is quite strange for the best players in the world, but it usually works. The Europeans have been more successful in this competition over the last two decades, and that success brings out the most raucous fans.

It can set the stage for a great round of competition in the 2013 majors.

If Woods is healthy and ready and at his best, and the same can be said for McIlroy, golf fans may have the best rivalry since Nicklaus went at it with Arnold Palmer nearly five decades ago.

Can Tiger rediscover his best play and challenge McIlroy? Sound off with below and follow Steve on Twitter — @ProFootballBoy.

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