There’s lots of talk on the inter-tubes about the growing Woods-McIlroy rivalry. Much of that is, I think, desperation on the part of the media who need something to write about. But perusing the articles, it occurred to me that the budding Woods-McIlroy rivalry looks like nothing less than the Palmer-Nicklaus rivalry of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Palmer was golf’s superstar in the late 1950s and 1960s, eclipsing a previous generation that included giants like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. His dominance—though not his popularity—faded, however, when the young upstart Jack Nicklaus won the 1962 US Open at Oakmont. While Arnold still held his Army and the media in sway, things were never the same after that. Nicklaus would go on to become the game’s greatest player—perhaps ever.
So how about those comparisons?
As with Palmer, Woods—the dominant player of his generation—is the media superstar in spite of growing evidence that his time has passed. Woods is 36, thirteen years older than McIlroy. Palmer was roughly years older than Nicklaus. Like Nicklaus, McIlroy is poised to do things that his older rival did not. McIlroy has two majors at a younger age than Tiger—something no one ever thought we’d see.
The bad news for Woods is that Nicklaus quickly eclipsed his older rival. Palmer did not win a major after 1964—three years after Nicklaus turned pro.
Rory has been a pro for five years, and Woods currently has not won a Major in four years.
The more I think on this one, the more it looks like deja vu all over again.