Rory thinks Tiger and Phil are getting older
As we get ready for the final tournament of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have managed to become part of the “story” even though neither will be playing this week at the Tour Championship at East Lake. World number one Rory McIlroy did his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday, and towards the end of his availability, he was asked about the potential changing of the guard in golf without Tiger and Phil in the field this week. His response is below, courtesy of ASAP Sports.
As usual, Rory gave an honest and thoughtful answer, except as John Strege of Golf Digest points out, not everyone saw it that way. Instead of focusing on the first part of his answer where he suggests that there really isn’t a change of the guard happening, outlets like the LA Times and the Independent ran with “news” that Rory thought Phil and Tiger were getting older, as if the rest of us have some sort of way to prevent this from happening. Sports Illustrated, ironically in some attempt to connect with a younger crowd, suggested that Rory threw “serious shade” at Tiger and Phil.
So, naturally Rory started getting some responses on Twitter about it and he felt the need to address the “issue” in a few tweets.
So many people have spent most of the last year saying that Tiger is done as an elite player because of age and injury. Phil just came off of arguably his worst year as a professional, and again, people have wondered what the future holds for him as well. Both players have suggested themselves that they are getting older. I still fully believe that both Tiger and Phil are going to be just fine, but to expect them to play at the same level they did a decade ago is foolish. No player is immune from the effects of age and injury, and as much as the golfing world would like to hope that Tiger and Phil are going to be the first two, that’s simply not going to be the case. Rory didn’t even say anything negative and shouldn’t have felt the need to send out those two tweets to clarify his stance. This should have been a non-story.
The funny thing to me about this is that if Rory had said literally the exact same thing about Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, we wouldn’t even be taking about this right now, but because he may have said something not so complimentary about Tiger and Phil, the reaction becomes absolutely ridiculous, a faux “controversy” every time Tiger isn’t fawned over, as Kevin Van Valkenburg tweeted at me last night. We saw this exact same thing back in March when Graeme McDowell had the audacity to suggest that Tiger is more beatable now than he was 15 years ago. The nerve.
I realize that it’s clickbait and that anything seen as even a remote slight against Tiger or Phil is good for traffic, but there’s a massive downside to this sort of thing as well. McDowell mentioned in that piece above that maybe he would start giving “no comment” answers when dealing with the media’s questions about Tiger, and thankfully, that hasn’t been the case just yet as McDowell, much like Rory, is one of the most engaging and intelligent players that golf has to offer, but at some point, we shouldn’t be surprised if more players start going down that path. If they’re going to have to backtrack and clarify statements all the time, at least when it comes to players like Tiger and Phil, what’s the point of talking? Luke Donald summed it up best when the McDowell story broke:
We should all be hoping that this isn’t the case with Rory McIlroy.