Is Rory McIlroy the New Sergio Garcia?
Well, it isn't a coincidence that McIlroy, just 19 years "young," is from a place in Northern Ireland properly named "Holywood," as the golf world is already treating him like the second coming.
McIlroy's game is being talked about in the golf world like an "US Weekly" headline. He won his first professional tournament earlier this season in the Dubai Desert Classic, a tournament that has seen winners named Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson, and yes, Tiger Woods.
There is no doubting his talent, but we have to monitor our immediate expectations from such a young golfer. Rory McIlroy, meet Michelle Wie, Ty Tryon, and, yes, Sergio Garcia.
You see, Sergio came into view around the same age. Garcia won his first European Tour event at 20 and became one of the more popular players on tour when he battled Woods at Medinah in the PGA Championship the same year. People raved, in the same way they do about Rory, about Garcia's ability to just hit the ball the way it should be struck.
During the Honda Classic telecast, you could have closed your eyes and thought the announcers were talking about Ben Hogan 2.0. McIlroy has so many expectations right now, but he is still so young.
Here's my point, which most people disagree on. To me, Garcia's career has been rather disappointing. He has won a Players and six other PGA Tour events. He is No. 2 in the world right now. He's a damn fine golfer who will be around for a long time. It's just that the expectations people forced on him (and us) from the time he could barely grow facial hair were so outrageous that we expected him to win the Masters by 13 shots his first time out as a pro. He was supposed to. That's how good Sergio was.
I don't think McIlroy will flame out, I just think a little perspective on the young gun is called for. His swing seems pretty flawless, but the guy can get rattled. In September of last year, McIlroy had a four-shot lead in the Omega European Masters heading into the final round but missed a four-footer to win in regulation. In the playoff, McIlroy missed a putt less than two feet away on the 18th to lose.
That stuff happens, but when the media is blanketing players and critiquing everything they do at such a young age, it can rattle them mentally.
Bottom line, I don't want to see McIlroy turn into the next Garcia, who gets so distraught over things that he eventually blames the people that rake the bunkers for missing a putt to win the British Open. He's flashy, he's talented but he is still very young. The success might come, but it is worth noting -- we've still only see one Tiger Woods, and that is because there is, well, only one Tiger Woods. Golf is hard. Not everyone can win all the time.
Can we back off McIlroy a little so he can develop into the way we all want him to? I'm excited to watch him play this week at the WGC-CA Championship. I just hope people realize that in 72 holes there's a decent chance he will hit one (or maybe even two!) bad shots.