Now 26, Future Remains Bright for Rory McIlroy

By Matt Cohen | Social Media & Site Editor

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Rory McIlroy assumably received many gifts, phone calls, texts, tweets and well wishes for his 26th birthday. Yet the best present Rory received is the one he gave himself on Sunday – a win at the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.

With the win, Rory, who turned 26 on Monday, joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players in the past 75 years to win 10 PGA Tour titles before turning 26. McIlroy also joined Woods as the only top seeds to win the Match Play (Woods did it three times).

Yet in this story by Brian Keogh of the Irish Golf Desk, Rory dismisses those comparisons.

“Every time I have a win, I keep hearing those guys’ names come up,” he said when the contrived Jack-Tiger statistical comparison was thrown his way.

“It’s great to be mentioned with the likes of Tiger and Jack, the two greatest players that I think have ever played this game. I’m on my journey, I’ll see where I get to. But right now I’m really happy with my 10th win. And I’m going to go after my 11th next week at TPC.”

Related: McIlroy wins the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play 4-and-2 over Gary Woodland.

Take a step back for a second and realize what Rory’s accomplished to date in his career:

  • 2011 U.S. Open Champion
  • 2014 British Open Champion
  • 2012, 2014 PGA Champion
  • 2 World Golf Championships (2014 WGC-Bridgestone, 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play)
  • 3x Ryder Cup winner (2010, 2012, 2014)
  • 2012, 2014 Vardon Trophy, Byron Nelson Award

At TPC Harding Park, McIlroy showed a new dimension to his game – the ability to come back and grind out wins.

Against Billy Horschel Friday, Rory was 2 down with two holes to play and on the verge of elimination when he rallied to win in 20 holes. Paul Casey was 1 up with two holes to play when he hit a poor chip that led to bogey on the 17th and McIlroy won in 22 holes. In the semifinals against Jim Furyk, McIlroy was 1 down when he closed birdie-birdie-eagle for a 1-up victory.

“I think World Golf Championships are very important to us as players,” said Rory. “They’re a group of events where you get the best group of players in the world. This ranks right up (there.) I rank it just below the majors, just like I did with my victory at Akron (the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) last year. These World Golf Championship trophies are nice to look at in your trophy cabinet. It will be going in there right next to the one I won at Bridgestone last year.”

As Rory now enters the later half of his 20’s, it’s scary to think he’s still only scrapping the surface of his prime. How many majors will Rory have at 36? At 46?

What’s made Rory’s achievements even more impressive is the amount of talent on tour he has to compete with week in and week out. Jordan Spieth, who just won the 2015 Masters, is a budding superstar. Bubba Watson is a two-time Masters Champion. Then there’s guys like Jason Day. Adam Scott. Henrik Stenson. Justin Rose. Dustin Johsnon. The list goes on and on.

Yet McIlroy remains the undisputed No. 1, the absolute best. A question Tiger often faced (albeit unfairly) when he was dominating during his first years on tour, was “where is his competition?” That’s never been uttered once when it comes to Rory.

As Rory says, he’s on his own journey, and where it goes remains to be seen. But it’s really fun to watch, and it’s still only the very beginning.