Were you one of those clamoring for a Rory McIlroy vs. Tiger Woods showdown at the Ryder Cup? Thank your lucky stars you didn't get one. Young McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the world, scored three points for Europe and stifled American hotshot Keegan Bradley on Sunday. Woods, meanwhile, sat out a session for the first time in his undistinguished Cup career and contributed a too-late-to-matter half point to the U.S. effort.
Let's not sugarcoat it: McIlroy could give the 36-year-old Woods a stroke a side in match play. That's because El Tigre, who used to have all the shots, can't trust his salvage-yard swing. On the par-4 16th on Sunday, needing to sling a draw around a right-to-left dogleg, Woods played a high cut over the trees instead, scaring squirrels in the top branches. On the next hole he inexplicably played a draw to a far-right sucker pin. He got away with it, but Jack Nicklaus had to be rubbing his eyes.
Tiger has also lost his mastery of the greens. Not only does he no longer drain the do-or-die putts that he never missed in accumulating 14 majors, but he also now lips out most of them on the low side. Or maybe that was an impostor who couldn't get up and down from 20 feet, handing Europe an outright win on the final green.
It must gall Woods to be eclipsed by a kid like McIlroy, whose insouciance serves as an unintended rebuke. The Northern Irishman played on Sunday with no warmup, having arrived at Medinah 10 minutes before his tee time, but he pummeled Bradley with three early birdies. "I'm pretty loose anyway," McIlroy said after his victory. "It was probably a good thing I didn't have to think about it too much."
But you wanted Rory vs. Tiger, so we matched up their Sunday scorecards. McIlroy put up six birdies and a bogey in 17 holes. Woods had a birdie and two bogeys in 18 holes. McIlroy won 5 and 3.
Or 3 and 1 with the strokes.
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Photograph by ROBERT BECK
RORY GLORY While Woods was missing putts and going winless, the game's young No. 1 was taking bows.