That's why Donald, despite being No. 1 longer than anyone besides Woods in the last 15 years, was slow to gain proper respect. It took him winning the money titles on two tours before Donald got his due.
Kaymer had won a PGA Championship, yet remained an enigma.
With McIlroy, there is no debate.
"He's got a game that people think is world No. 1," three-time major champion Padraig Harrington said. "That's why nobody is going to have any complaints about Rory being world No. 1. He won a major at a young age. He's got the game. Yeah, you can compare him with Tiger. He's still got a lot to do. And there's no doubt that Tiger's 14 majors are very impressive.
"But if you're going to win a lot of majors, you've got to start winning them early," Harrington said. "At 22 years of age, the world No. 1, a major in the bank, he's going to play a lot of majors where he'll be the favorite."
Harrington won his first major at Carnoustie in 2007, when McIlroy was an 18-year-old amateur who played bogey-free in the opening round for a 68 and went on to be the low amateur. At the trophy presentation that day, Harrington said he was happy to get his major before this kid from Northern Ireland started winning one.
"There's very few players as good as him at his age out there winning tournaments," Harrington said. "There are guys with potential, but he's already delivered. And he has a good balance in his life. He doesn't look like a guy who is going to burn out. He looks like he's going to be here for a while."
Not since Woods has anyone shown this much potential at such a young age. McIlroy has worked hard on his short game, particularly his putting inside 6 feet, which had kept him from winning more. In his last 12 tournaments, he has won three times (one of them the Shanghai Masters, which was unofficial). Only once he has finished out of the top five.
This is the consistency required of the No. 1 player in golf. McIlroy has consistency and power, a lethal combination. And there doesn't appear to be any swing changes along the way.
"He's a very good player, very young, still learning," Westwood said. "I think he's got a fairly bright future."
AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.
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