Mike from Attleboro: The dawn of a new era

Mike from Attleboro: The dawn of a new era
August 18, 2012, 3:39 pm
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Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com.

Over twenty years ago at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island South Carolina, the world of golf was transformed. On its fairways during the 1991 Ryder Cup, the age of gentlemanly competition was buried in its sandy waste areas and the modern era of scorecard jingoism was born the moment Bernard Langers putt inched just to the right of the cup on the 18th.

This past Sunday, the Ocean Course was again the site for the dawn of a new era in professional golf and a major championship was the setting. A crimson shirted champion pulled away from the field to win a major in historic fashion, and his name was not Tiger Woods.

The 2012 PGA Championship not only confirmed Northern Irelands Rory McIlroy as golfs newest sensation, but it also signaled the official end to Tigers reign as the dominant power on the PGA tour. Whats ironic about that is Tigers downfall is a direct product of his own tremendous success.

Im not a golf expert by any means but what I saw from Rory McIlroy this weekend was the coming out party for the next once in a generation professional golfer. This was the second major championship won by McIlroy and both wins rewrote the PGA record books. More impressive than setting a new PGA Championship record with an 8 shot margin of victory was the way in which it was achieved. McIlroy was absolutely clinical in his final round as he easily pulled away from the field. Not only did McIlroy not card a single bogey in his final charge for the Wanamaker Trophy, he closed out his final round with 24 putts on 18 holes.

Unless Rodney Dangerfield bequeathed him Albert Einsteins putter, McIlroys performance on the greens gives one the impression that he now possesses the mental fortitude that was lacking during his collapse at the 2011 Masters.

It was this same type of single-minded drive to be the best while subjugating the competition that previously defined the career of Tiger Woods. Yet, while the emergence of McIlroy echoes Tiger's in a number of ways there are very distinct differences that make McIlroys arrival that much more impressive.

When Woods burst on to the scene in the late 1990s he took the tour by storm. His power game was far too much for the wide range of courses the PGA frequented. Courses, like hallowed eighteenth at Augusta National, were forced to either get longer and more difficult or embrace obsolescence. The term Tigerized quickly became commonly used nomenclature for the lengthening and overall buttressing of links around the globe.

In addition to sending course designers back to the drawing boards, Woods also sent most of the fat and happy tour pros of the day into early competitive irrelevance. Until Tigers debut, the average PGA tour card carrier was, semi-doughy in body with the mental toughness of a trust fund kid. Golf fitness was a round or two on the course and twice as many rounds with Johnny Walker on their bag in the clubhouse. Most of these guys were just content to make the cut and cash a check. Woods elite fitness and ruthless style left these bloated content Bushwood castoffs in the dust.

Today, courses are designed with the power and distance of current pros and their equipment in mind. They are more difficult and challenging than ever before and simply being long out of the tee box is not the advantage it was a decade ago. The Golfers themselves have also evolved. Pros that look like Carl Pettersson are the exception and not the rule. Weights and cardio are now as important to a tour pros preparation as work on the practice greens. And more importantly, the current wave of new professionals grew up watching Tigers unrelenting methodology.

Instead of being intimidated by Tiger, the new generation seeks to emulate his competitiveness and singular emphasis on winning majors. Simply stated, Tigers play and the medias constant coverage of him, manufactured a generation obsessed with being the next Tiger, and equipped to beat the current version.

It is this very field of Tigerized golfers and courses that Rory McIlroy is now poised to dominate. He has unquestionably demonstrated the skill, power and mentality to be the heir to Tigers throne. McIlroy systematic decimation of golfs best was done with a free and easy style that leads fans to believe that he actually enjoys playing the game. Conversely, Woods dominance has come with a demeanor so robotic, manufactured and programed, it would get him thrown out of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

As it stands today, McIlroy seems to be a prodigy that can effortlessly exude golf genius at will, whereas Tiger is now a flawed machine in need of constant updates and repair.

Im sure McIlroys ascension to the world number 1 ranking and the confirmation of Tigers mortality has the legions of Woods supporters turning a shade of scarlet to match their idols Sunday attire. They may even look to the upcoming Woods and McIlroy pairing at Bethpage as a showdown between their King and the latest usurper to his crown. But what is written on that tournaments leaderboard is insignificant to what was witnessed on the shores Kiawah Island.

Just as Langers missed putt ended an era of solemnly dignified Ryder Cup matches, McIlroys PGA triumph marks the end of Tigers reign as the single dominant force in professional golf.