THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. —
“I feel like I can improve in different areas of the game still,” McIlroy said. “I guess that’s the challenge and the fun of practice is trying to get better all the time.”
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was learning to win without his best stuff, another trait that defines Woods’ greatness. McIlroy at least was savvy enough not to say that he won with his “C” game. Woods stopped grading himself after catching grief for saying that in Dallas in 1997.
It’s tempting to compare McIlroy with Woods because of their talent, and because Woods is the standard for this generation, and perhaps many more to come.
That would make 2013 a chance for McIlroy to pull away from his peers, as Woods once did.
The 1999 season was similar to this year when it came to a potential rivalry. Going into the final major of that season, Woods was No. 2 in the world behind David Duval. Woods had won three times that year, second in tour victories to Duval. Woods wound up winning the PGA Championship at Medinah, and then he closed out the season by winning four straight tournaments — Firestone, Disney, the Tour Championship and a World Golf Championship in Spain.
Duval was a forgotten figure by the end of the season.
Woods found another gear — closer to warp speed — in 2000 by winning 10 times around the world, including three straight majors. There hasn’t been another season like that since then, and there might not be. But imagine how McIlroy will be looked upon if he were to win multiple majors next year. If he wins both money titles again. If he builds such a gap at No. 1 in the world ranking that players can only hope he decides to change his swing.
Perhaps the more intriguing aspect is how Woods responds.