GOLF OPINION: 'On the course Rory McIlroy's out on his own'
So it seems Rory McIlroy's now in the super sponsorship league alongside Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, David Beckham and, of course, Tiger Woods, writes Greg Wilcox...
But while in the game of big bucks he’s caught up with the big beast there’s only one of the pair with all the chasing to do where it really matters - on the fairways. With Woods’ resurgence last year - after a dire 2010 and 2011 he won three times, although none of them Majors - there’s the temptation to suggest he’s still the man to beat, that the only rivalry that counts will involve him. While even this time last year, when the 14-Major man had recently fallen out of the top 50 in the rankings, there was still a hint of truth in that, that’s no longer the case.
That’s through no real fault of is own. Over the past 12 months the golfing landscape has changed, perhaps permanently. In 2012 McIlroy morphed from the ‘next golfing superstar’ to the best player on the planet.
Anyone who saw his five-birdie blitz at the DP World Tour Championship in November, which saw him end the season in some style, will be all too aware that the Rory Era is now underway. Those last five holes on the Earth course both illustrated and encapsulated the level to which McIlroy has risen.
When under pressure from Justin Rose, who had just shot a course record to take the lead, and needing to produce something spectacular the Northern Irishman was able to summon up brilliance seemingly at will.
It was the type of performance that only the greats are able to deliver, it was, dare I say it, Tiger-esque.
It was exactly the sort of round he’d been churning out since his US PGA Championship win in August and explains why Nike have splashed the cash to secure his signature. However, while McIlroy’s now challenging Woods in the sponsorship stakes it’s important to remember that on the course he’s out on his own. The American will know that.
It’s Rory versus the rest.