Old Nike vs. New Nike. A wise aging legend vs. a young all-worldly talented superstar. Nike hit the lottery in its golf department. Landing potentially the two greatest golfers of their time.
In 2013, it is the tale of two stories heading down completely different paths. An aging Tiger who seems to be breaking out of his slump winning a few tournaments with a few Tiger-esk moments, like the improbable chip in on the 16th at the Memorial Tournament last June. Yet until he wins a Major, all the “he’s back” conversations will be put on hold. And then there is Rory. Only 24, he has been at the least, dominant in his 2 Major victories (U.S. Open, PGA) winning both by 8 shots. And now with Rory inking in the ballpark of a $200 million contract with Nike, here come the comparisons. While Rory is still very young, We all have to remember that Tiger is still in his “prime” at least in golf years, at only 37 he still has a strong 5 years left but Tiger has the body of most NBA and MLB athletes. Look at VJ, he’s 50 and he keeps competing at a high level. But I won’t deny the comparisons because they simply can’t.
Way back in 1997, a tall and lengthy Tiger Woods wearing just a blank red sweater, destroyed the field and blasted onto the scene at the ’97 Masters. And just like that, he was the face of Nike. When you think Nike, you think of MJ’s shoes and Tiger on Sunday. In the early 2000’s Woods became the most dominant and famed athlete in the world. Spending 5 years at number one in the world (1999-2004) doing things with a golf club that most golfers dreamed to do. After a little trouble with his swing, Woods regained his#1 spot from 2005 till 2010, playing and creating some of the most memorable moments in Golf history. Who could forget the ridiculous shot at the Masters where he chipped it 90 feet left of the hole and on a perfect read, sunk it 20 seconds later. Or maybe the most exciting US Open since Francis Ouimet shocked the world in the greatest game ever played. Tiger’s 3rd round at Torrey Pines was nothing short of spectacular. Woods eagled the 13th, holed out on 17th with an unbelievable one-bouncer chip from an awkward lie in the rough just above the front left bunker. Then on the 18th he drained a 60 footer for good measure leaving him with just a smile as chaos erupted around him. Oh yeah, he did this on a Torn ACL… And we all know what he did on Sunday against Rocco Mediate, barely getting through the day and then sinking a tournament saving putt that rolled around the world and in, giving the typical Tiger-fist pump. But since then, well he is still trying to find his way at #2 in the world and still finding his swing, he will be back.
And then there is the young gun who in the past two years has blasted on the scene, much like the younger Tiger. Winning his first major by a dominant stroke count as well, in the process putting on a spectacle for all the patrons. Even more remarkable is that going into the final round of the Masters that year, he was on the verge of getting his first green jacket, but in the end, he choked. Shooting a shocking 80 on his final round, no one thought he would turn things around so quickly. His father who has a very close relationship with him (much like Tiger had with his before he father passed away) called Rory right after his final round to make sure he was alright and McIlroy responded with, “I have no problem with it at all. Just hit a few bad shots.” The poised and determined youngster a month later would finally get his first, leading at one point with a stunning 16 under, he remained focus the entire tournament, not letting the history of his golf distract him. Defending champion Graeme McDowell, amazed by the performance Rory put on over the weekend simply put it as “(he) is a legend.” He finished 8 shots ahead of Jason Day, who in any other US Open, would have been lifting the hardware. But instead Rory crushed the record. On some say the toughest course in the world.
Rory is now a known force throughout the world with another dominate win at the PGA last summer. Now sitting at number one, and Tiger at two, do we have a budding friendly rivalry? Only time will tell if these two will ever reach a final group pairing together in a Major, but when that day might come, Nike will have all the bragging rights.
Rory and Tiger new “No Cup is Safe” commercial for Nike.
Stats courtesy of ESPN, Wikipedia and Fox Sports.