Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy.
With his win Sunday in the Open Championship, McIlroy joined Nicklaus and Woods as the only golfers to win three of golf’s major championships before their 26th birthdays.
Quite an impressive feat. So impressive that one might project forward that Rory will top the 18 majors won by Nicklaus by the time he turns ...
No. I won’t make that mistake again.
You see, it was about 8 years ago that I fell into that trap with Woods.
Woods, my favorite golfer, won the last three major tournaments of 2000 — the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship — and the first major of 2001 — the Masters — to complete the “Tiger Slam.”
The Tiger Slam was the name given to the accomplishment of holding all four titles at once, even if they weren’t in the same calendar year.
Woods then followed by winning two majors in 2005, two in 2006, one in 2007 and another — his 14th — in 2008.
It was around that time and I was playing a round at Uvalde Memorial Golf Course with my good golfing buddy, Trooper Kone, and we were discussing whether Woods would catch Nicklaus.
“I don’t see any way he can’t,” I remember saying.
“I don’t know,” my buddy replied. “That’s a lot of majors and anything can happen.”
He was so right.
It is now more than six years since Woods won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open.
It seems Tiger’s goal was disrupted by surgeries and an infidelity scandal, not to mention a brash new generation of young golfers not as focused on chasing Nicklaus as they are on catching up with Woods.
McIlroy leads the pack that includes Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer, to name a few.
So, despite the fact that McIlroy won Sunday by driving the ball farther and more accurately than anyone else in the field, by hitting long irons higher and as accurate as some players hit wedges, and by seemingly never being trouble, I’m hesitant to make any bold predictions on the future of the young player from North Ireland.
But as a fan of the sport, I will enjoy watching his exploits as well as those of the other exciting young players on the PGA Tour currently while still rooting for Woods to get five more majors.