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Brent Kelley

Rory Runs Away with PGA; Comparing McIlroy and Woods

By August 12, 2012

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Rory McIlroy is a major championship winner again, running away with the victory at the 2012 PGA Championship.

McIlroy won by eight strokes over runner-up David Lynn, setting a tournament record for largest margin of victory. The previous recordholder was some guy named Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus won the 1980 PGA Championship by seven strokes. Now, McIlroy is the recordholder.

It's also the second time McIlroy has won a major in, well, major fashion. At his previous major win, the 2011 U.S. Open, McIlroy also won by eight strokes. If you want to compare the young Rory McIlroy with the young Tiger Woods, go ahead, we won't stop you.

The win is McIlroy's fourth PGA Tour title, too.

McIlroy is the 77th golfer in the sport's history two win at least two of what we now recognize as the professional majors (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship). Is he the youngest to win two? No, post-1900, Gene Sarazen was only 20 when he won his second major (pre-1900, Young Tom Morris was only 18 when he won his second).

But McIlroy is younger than Woods was when Tiger won his second. McIlroy is 23 years, 3 months and 8 days old. Woods was 23 years, 7 months, 15 days old when he won his second at the 1999 PGA Championship.

Another comparison: McIlroy won his first two majors by a combined 16 strokes; Woods won his first two by a combined 13 strokes.

Let's not carried away just yet and say that McIlroy is a sure thing to approach Tiger's career record. But winning two majors at such a young age is a very strong indicator of continued greatness. Here is the list of golfers with two majors before age 24, and how many career majors each wound up winning:
  • Young Tom Morris - 4 career majors
  • Willie Anderson - 4 career majors
  • Johnny McDermott - 2 career majors
  • Gene Sarazen - 7 career majors
  • Seve Ballesteros - 5 career majors
  • Jack Nicklaus - 18 career majors
  • Tiger Woods - 14 (so far) career majors
The first three golfers on that list achieved their final major wins in 1912 or earlier. Morris in the 1870s, and then he died at age 24. Anderson in the 19-aughts, then he died at age 30. McDermott in 1912 and then he ... um ... how can I put this delicately ... went nuts (he lived most of the rest of his life in asylums).

So, really, McIlroy's best comparisons are Sarazen, Seve, Nicklaus and Tiger. And of those, Ballesteros' five majors are the fewest. Sarazen, Nicklaus and Woods all achieved the career grand slam.

It's good to be in such company.

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