McIlroy shows shades of Woods and Mickelson

Rory McIlroy led by as many as seven shots on Sunday at the British Open, which showed shades of Tiger Woods and his ability to run away from a major field.

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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

Rory McIlroy, newly minted Open Championship winner, has a remarkable record that actually has characteristics of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Besides Woods, he is the lone rare separation player in decades. Not only is McIlroy three corners into the career Grand Slam, he won two of the major championships by eight strokes apiece and had a seven-shot lead on Sunday in the other. That’s Woodsian stuff.

The performance tendency of McIlroy, because he is only 25, will take a certain unknown shape over the next decade or so. But until now, his graph chart for winning resembles the up-and-down of Mickelson way more than the regular success of an in-prime Woods. Like Lefty, the trend shows that when McIlroy is on, he’s really on, and when he’s not, he can resemble just another player.

The diverse Woods-Mickelson characteristics even apply to McIlroy’s 2014 season, in which he consistently has finished up high. But the Northern Irishman has had an odd drop in performance on Fridays, shooting from 74 to 78 in five PGA Tour second rounds.

• Some say there is no such thing as coincidence. Whatever, the sporting gods seem to have a sense of humor – or biorhythms. As you probably know, even if you don’t study Wozzilroy Analytics, McIlroy won the Open on the same weekend that former fiancee Caroline Wozniacki claimed her first WTA title of the year.

As the saying goes, breakup success can be the best kind of success. Or something like that.

• McIlroy, of course, is now one green jacket away from the career Slam. Since Sunday, it seems to be fashionable to compare his brilliant record with Woods'.

That’s not fair to the kid. Why don’t we wait a decade or so before we start comparing majors? Comparing anyone with Woods is setting the person up for perceived failure. Woods won the career Grand Slam three times over before turning 33 and twice before reaching 30 – both freakish feats.

No one needs to weigh McIlroy down with unrealistic expectation. Rather, let’s appreciate his rare achievement to this point.

• If I were U.S. Ryder Cup captain, would I want Woods on my team? Of course. Smart money bets a bundle that a healthy Woods can get ready for any competition, given two months of preparation.

• Yes, with the exception of his opening 69 at last week’s Open, Woods has looked like a rusty shell of his old self in his six competitive rounds since March 31 back surgery.

So he needs some time to get his head and swing right and sort out his driver. That means fixing the two-way miss he had (sometimes on one hole) at Royal Liverpool.

But until he completes next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, his report card should read “incomplete.”

• An interesting and different kind of spin comes out of the mouth of Mr. Woods these days. He seems to be bouncing back and forth between idealism and realism. We heard that at Hoylake.

Through Thursday, he was pronouncing himself ready and giving the impression the only acceptable result would be victory. He was even defiant at times.

But during and after his 77-73-75 finish at Royal Liverpool, he talked about needing to work on so many things and that he was just getting back into the swing of things after microdiscectomy.

Suffice it to say he didn’t fluctuate like that back in his terminator days.

• Europe is a 10/11 Ryder Cup favorite, according to multiple oddsmakers. That means if you like Europe’s chances (and, really, who doesn’t these days?), you would have to bet $11 million to win $10 million.

Or a smaller denomination, if your disposable income is not that high.

• At this point, it’s very clear what captain Tom Watson’s underdog U.S. team needs: a player or three like Tom Watson (circa 1977-83).

Even something like Paul Azinger’s pod system might not get Watson over this hump.

• The future of the competitive game would seem to be in terrific shape in the hands of young nice guys McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, among others.

We should hope outside influences don’t infect their mannerly ways. Having been to majors in five decades, your correspondent has seen first-hand that that can happen if someone doesn’t stay grounded.

• The Player of the Year award would seem to be a race between McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson. Who will win? McIlroy’s chances are fancied here.

He has momentum, and he’s two weeks into playing 11 tournaments in 14 weeks. It should surprise no one if he were to spring forward and win more than once in that stretch.

• Rickie Fowler has finished in the top 5 in all three majors this year, including joint second in both summer Opens, after going full-time with instructor Butch Harmon in November and retooling his swing. In 16 majors before 2014, Fowler finished better than 14th twice (ties for fifth and 10th).

Harmon doesn’t need any more positive marketing, but Fowler just gave it to him.

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