I had the pleasure of watching Rory McIlroy win the U.S. Open by eight strokes. One thing is obvious: he is so different from Tiger.
Rory is very human: as I was rooting for him I was actually anxious that he might come apart and start to make mistakes and lose the tournament, whereas Tiger has always been cast as a kind of super-human. With Tiger it was as if he had been dropped into the golf world from the planet Krypton. His feats were astounding. Rory is different. He is just a very human, and quite excellent, young man. I can feel a connection to Rory that I never felt with Tiger.
I am very glad to have been able to watch Tiger play what was perhaps the greatest golf of all time. Watching Tiger play golf was, in a strange way, to inhabit a kind of adolescent fantasy of skills and powers beyond human dimensions. You couldn't identify with Tiger, you could only fantasize about having his golf superpowers.
His era is likely over now, and a new era of young kids in their twenties has been arriving for the last couple of years, and is now firmly in place with Rory’s masterpiece at Congressional this weekend.
I think that Tiger sabotaged himself with his sub-human behavior which eventually became public and destroyed his marriage, his career, and his golf game. I think that his father shamed him by putting super-human expectations on him, which he could not live up to, especially in the world of golf, the most unpredictable and uncontrollable sport of them all. I believe that Tiger had a sub-conscious urge to be less than super-human and eventually to be found out to be less than super-human. Unfortunately, he seems to have been able to see only two polarities: super-human or sub-human. Maybe someday he will be able to become just human, with nice qualities of desiring to be excellent at golf and be a good man.
I wish Tiger well. And I hope that he is taking this time in his life, where he is no longer viewed as super-human, to become human, and a good human. It would be so good if he softened himself up and let go of his domineering, hard, unapproachable shell. That may be too much to ask, but we golf fans are being given a different gift in the name of Rory McIlroy. I don’t think Rory will be able to overwhelm the sport the way Tiger did, but I do expect to see him in contention for decades to come, and what a pleasure it will be to see a nice person, a very human person be in that lovely position.
With any luck, Rory will not become the Next Tiger, he will just continue to be a nice human being who continually grows as a golfer and a man.