Rory McIlroy Vs. Tiger Woods Vs. Jack Nicklaus

On the occasion of his second major victory, how does Rory McIlroy stack up against the only two players it’s worth stacking him up against? posted on

AGE AT FIRST MAJOR VICTORY:

Jack Nicklaus: 22 years 5 months, 1962 U.S. Open. Won in an 18-hole playoff against Arnold Palmer.

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Tiger Woods: 21 years 3 months, 1997 Masters. Won by 12 strokes.

Associated Press / AP

Rory McIlroy: 22 years 1 month, 2011 U.S. Open. Won by eight strokes.

KEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters

AGE AT SECOND MAJOR VICTORY:

Jack Nicklaus, 23 years 2 months, 1963 Masters. Won by a single stroke.

AP

Tiger Woods: 23 years 8 months, 1999 PGA Championship. Beat Sergio Garcia by one stroke.

Associated Press / AP

Rory McIlroy: 23 years 3 months, PGA Championship. Won by eight strokes.

Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

NOW WHAT?

How He Tops Nicklaus — The Long Haul

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Jack Nicklaus won his final major, the 1986 Masters, at the age of 46 — making him the oldest player to ever win that tournament. But the victory was an aberration, considering his most recent prior major championship came in 1980. Nicklaus ended his career with 18 majors, the most of any player in PGA history. For McIlroy to match Nicklaus’ hardware, and assuming he’d have to do it by his early 40s, he’d basically need to average one major championship a year for the better part of two decades.

How He Tops Woods — The Peak Burst

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At 36 years old, Tiger’s won 14 major championships. That’s an average of about one a year since his first, when he was 21, but the 2012 season was actually his fourth without a major victory — a longer cold streak than Nicklaus ever dealt with during his 1962-1980 period of dominance (he never went without for more than two seasons). So, if you trace back from the 2008 season, when he took the U.S. Open, and start at the 1999 Masters, when he kicked off his virtuoso years, Tiger won 13 majors in 10 seasons. If we’re truly to hold McIlroy to Tiger’s standard, we should expect a similar burst of potency from him, to the tune of about 4 majors every 3 years for a decade or so. That’s how he tops Woods.

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