Greg Norman made some waves in the golf world when he said earlier this week that he believes Tiger Woods is “intimidated” by current world No. 1 and adorably curly-locked 23-year-old Rory McIlroy.
Tiger responded to Norman’s outrageous claim — even McIlroy acknowledged it was nonsense — in typical Tiger fashion, by brushing it off and focusing on the task at hand. Woods’ boring retort was that golf is an individual sport and that a golfer’s true opponent is the course, blah blah blah.
Charles Barkley, for one, wasn’t all too happy with Tiger’s lackadaisical attitude. In a radio interview with Chicago’s Waddle and Silvy, Barkley dreamed of a world in which Tiger snaps at his haters and throws them through plate-glass windows, or something.
“These people don’t like you, even though you made them, like, a gazillion dollars… and he still tried to take the high road…. I wish he would just go ballistic on Greg Norman… I wish I could just put some of my blackness in him. I mean, toughness, and not that ‘mental golf’ toughness.”
You can hear the Barkley clip here. It’s classic, outspoken, and slightly offensive Chuck, and of course Tiger would never publicly fire back at a detractor. But his interview brings up another, more pertinent point: With Tiger and Rory acting like pals, golf is devoid of any true rivalry.
McIlroy, of course, is the hottest player in golf. He’s got the PGA Player of the Year honor all but wrapped up after winning three of the last five PGA Tour events, including the PGA Championship.
Rory and Tiger have been paired together in many of those events, and are currently battling for a $10 million dollar check in this weekend’s Tour Championship. Next weekend, Rory and Tiger will be on opposite sides in the latest edition of golf’s fiercest rivalry, the Ryder Cup. Still, there isn’t much of a genuine rivalry between the two guys — there’s simply no bad blood. McIlroy arrived on the golf scene after Tiger’s heyday and carries himself in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to dislike the guy. There haven’t been any epic battles between the two, and both Tiger and Rory seem to share a mutual admiration for the other. Though the torch hasn’t officially been passed, it’s clear that the relay will be between Tiger and Rory, and both are okay with that.
Norman, it seems, is simply trying to create a bit of theater where there isn’t any, and you can’t really blame him. Barkley is obviously hungry for the same sort of drama. Golf is better a better game when its best players aren’t best friends (see: pre-divorce Tiger and Phil Mickelson), but as much as we want the Tiger vs. Rory storylines to become real, the gap in age between the two ensures it’ll never happen. Kobe vs. LeBron never happened, but luckily for the NBA and its fans LeBron found Kevin Durant. Golf has its next LeBron in Rory McIlroy, and it really needs a Durant-figure to emerge. Or Tiger needs to take some of Barkley’s “blackness.” Whichever works.
(h/t The Big Lead)