Mark Wiedmer: Has Rory McIlroy already become the next Woods?

Mark Wiedmer: Has Rory McIlroy already become the next Woods?

August 13th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his drive from the second tee during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, S.C., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

So maybe that U.S. Open golf layout at Congressional wasn't that easy after all. Maybe Rory McIroy is just that good.

In the wake of McIlroy's record PGA Championship victory atop Kiawah Island's Ocean Course on Sunday, maybe it's time to consider that the 23-year-old from Northern Island just may be worthy of his world No. 1 ranking.

Heck, McIlroy's so out-Tigering Tiger Woods at the moment that he even stole His Stripeness's trademark red shirt for the final round, as if Tiger now going four consecutive years without a major isn't enough of an insult.

"We all know the talent he has," Woods said of McIlroy, who became the youngest player to win the PGA in the stroke play era. "He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers."

But is Tiger in a spell or a new normal? Over eight weekend rounds in this year's majors Woods failed to break par a single time.

Yes, he's won three times this year, the most of anyone on the Tour. But Tiger has also always defined himself by the majors and he hasn't won one of those since the U.S. Open in 2008.

"Tiger used to be twice as good as everybody else out here," said Sir Nick Faldo during the CBS telecast. "He was supersonic walking around trying to be an average guy. Now he's an average guy trying to be supersonic."

Added Padraig Harrison to the Associated Press: "Rory is showing that when he has his 'A' game everybody else is going to struggle to compete with him. And Tiger needs his 'A' game to come up against Rory. If Rory is playing as well as he is, Tiger is not going to pick a major off unless he's got his 'A' game out there."

Nor does Phil Mickelson apparently have his 'A' game these days, finishing 3-over and tied for 36th.

But whether or not McIlroy was in a bad spell earlier this year, he may have just put all of golf under his spell with this victory, which came by the same unfathomable eight strokes -- also a PGA Championship record -- as his 2011 U.S. Open triumph.

And unlike that win at Congressional last year, no one is going label the Ocean Course an easy tract. Yet McIlroy raced through Sunday with zero bogeys, appropriately birdying the final hole to finish 13 under par.

Even the winner was forced to admit, "It was a great round of golf. I'm speechless."

This was a weekend to leave us all speechless. With the well-done Turner Television series "The Closer" closing shop tonight, it would seem a perfect time to hang that moniker on LeBron James after the U.S.'s gold medal win over Spain.

Once criticized for his occasional disappearing acts down the stretch of tight games, James threw down a vicious dunk and coolly swished a 3-pointer to ice the Red, White and Blue's second straight gold and 14th overall.

On a less uplifting note, the annoying self-promoter Chad Johnson formerly known as a football player was correctly released by the Miami Dolphins after a domestic violence arrest involving his wife of one month. Safe to say his Pro Bowl appearances will end at six.

Finally, when next you glimpse Republican vice-presidential choice Paul Ryan, see if he doesn't strongly remind you of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman, especially from the eyebrows down.

A second UTC note: CBS reported that had McIlroy gone to college he would have chosen East Tennessee State. Given their recent national success, perhaps the Mocs are becoming the next hot golf program for Europeans, which claimed seven of the top 10 spots at the PGA Championship.

Yet Sunday was ultimately kidnapped by McIlroy and his near perfect golf game.

He is the second youngest golfer to own two majors, his 23 years and three months one month older than Nicklaus and four months younger than Woods when he claimed his second.

Nor is his relationship with former world No. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki likely to give him much time out of the spotlight. And at some point, McIlroy may have to win one of these majors in a grind instead of a sprint.

But as the sun set over Kiawah, Harrington told the AP regarding McIlroy: "I think winning his second major is going to make things a lot easier for him. And he'll get better."

It's all enough to make that other golfer given to wearing red on Sunday begin to see red.