Rivals declare Rory is the new Tiger
Rory McIlroy is on pace to be the new Tiger Woods, even if he has not yet won a major title, according to golfers who have been humbled by the 22-year-old Ulsterman so far at the US Open.
McIlroy fired a three-under par 68 on Saturday to stand on an unprecedented 14-under par 199 after 54 holes, eight strokes ahead of second-place South Korean Yang Yong-Eun and on his way to immortality according to some rivals.
“He’s potentially the next Tiger Woods,” defending champion Graeme McDowell said of his compatriot.
“You run out of superlatives to describe what he’s doing. He’s decimating a field. It’s just phenomenal.”
Woods, a 14-time major winner chasing the all-time record of 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, did not play at the US Open due to a left leg injury. He has not won in 20 months since his infamous sex scandal and last won a major at the 2008 US Open.
But Ireland’s Padraig Harrington likes McIlroy’s chances of being the one to pass Nicklaus.
“If you’re going to talk about someone challenging Jack’s record, he’s your man,” Harrington said.
“When you are winning majors at 22, with his talent, and he’s got 20-something more years to play majors, and another 100 majors in him, I would give him a great chance to catch Jack.”
Such praise has not sent McIlroy’s head spinning. In fact, he was shaking his head when hearing of Harrington’s remark.
“Oh Paddy, Paddy, Paddy,” McIlroy said.
“I’m still looking for my first one. That’s all I can say. I’ve put myself in a great position to do that here, and then we’ll see what happens from there.
“It’s nice to have all these complimentary things said about you, but until you actually do these things, they don’t mean anything.”
McIlroy has flirted with majors before, opening last year’s British Open on 63 before winds rose and blew away his dream with a second-round 80.
In April, McIlroy led the Masters by four shots starting the last round but fired another 80, cracking under the pressure.
But he has shown no sign of that at the Congressional Country Club.
“The way he’s playing out there, it’s almost Tiger-esque,” said third-place Jason Day, of Australia.
Even Yang holds out little hope of overtaking McIlroy.
“I think it’s actually a race for second place right now,” he said before Day Three play got underway.