A sport is defined not by its rules, but by who played it best. Think of football, and you think of pelé, think of basketball, and you think of Jordan, and when you think of golf, you probably think of Tiger Woods. The 23+ glorious years of the American golfer’s career separated him from the rest, and his innumerable achievements on the playing green made him a legend, etching his name permanently into the golfing fall of Fame, and is venerated as the ‘greatest golfer of all time’.
‘All-time’, is, however, an incredibly long time, and during this time, a new generation of golfers have arrived on the scene, and this new generation is better than ever, throwing the sport of golf into a completely new direction, taking that gut-wrenching intensity that has been associated with the sport since its inception, and spinning it on its head in a subtle yet challenging manner. At the spearhead of this exciting new generation has undoubtedly been Rory Mcllroy. Over 13 years in the sport has given him immense success and many victories in both major tours have earned him the Number One spot in most world rankings, and many critics of the modern era claim him to be the greatest of all time. Sadly for them, but quite interestingly for us, the pedestal of greatest of all time can hold only one.
One main point of difference that must be kept in mind before discussing these two is experience. As aforementioned, Tiger Woods has played professional golf for a much longer time than has Mcllroy, and so dominates most raw statistics. Woods has a mind-blowing 79 PGA wins and 252 Top25s in the PGA tour, and 41 wins in the European tour. Mcllroy has a solid 14 wins in both the PGA and the European tour and has 91 Top25s in the PGA.
Another point to mention is popularity. Again, the woods’ experience in the sport has had an effect on this point of comparison as well. Woods is an incredibly famous player, and his domination over the sport during his golden years has effectively made him the face of not just American golf, but golf itself. Among non-golfers, Tiger woods is the more popular, for he is probably the only golfer they know. This can be likened to how Pele is for football(soccer), or Jordan is for basketball. Among the golfing community, however, Rory’s relatively recent journey up the ranks has made him arguably more popular. The battle here sets itself on generation, Rory being the face of the players of today, Woods being that of those of yesterday.
The one area that allows pure comparison, without any bias, is skill and style, and this is something both have In abundance. Woods tends to embrace the entropy in his game, hitting a haywire shot as far as the rough and then effortlessly bringing himself back into the green, and in doing so effectively displaying his raw skill with the club, his ability to maneuver through any rough spot and the sheer confidence in actually hunting such spots. Mcllroy, on the other hand, prefers to play the safe game and has mastered it, and thus his ball almost never sees even the fairway.
In the end, the better of the two depends purely on you, but one thing is for certain; Woods and Mcllroy are the best of their times. Mcllroy grew up idolizing Woods, yearning to be as good as he was, and now people consider him to be even better. Both stand paragons of a sport that has proven to be a source of added intrigue and intensity with each generation. One thing is for certain, though there will be another. Perhaps with the next era of golf would come yet another competitor for the grand pedestal, another vying for the top spots. It could even be one of you.