Woods won 54 times around the world, including 10 majors, before turning 30. McIlroy's win Sunday was the sixth of his career.
"I've won my second major at the same age as he had," McIlroy said. "But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002, and won so many. I'd love to sit up here and tell you that I'm going to do the same thing, but I just don't know. It's been great to win my first major last year and to back that up with another one this year. I can't ask for any more. I just want to keep working hard, keep practicing, and hopefully, there's a few more of these in my closet when my career finishes."
It was Padraig Harrington who suggested it might be McIlroy — not Woods — who might catch Nicklaus. That sounded absurd last year at Congressional when McIlroy set the U.S. Open scoring record on a course that was soft and vulnerable from so much rain.
Kiawah was a strong test. McIlroy made it look easy. Asked to pick one part of his game that could have been better, Boy Wonder leaned into the microphone and said with a smile, "Nothing. It was all good."
Woods used to make it look easy.
McIlroy is the sixth-youngest player to have two majors, joining a list that includes Young Tom Morris, John McDermott, Gene Sarazen, Nicklaus and Ballesteros. Those are legendary figures in golf. Morris died at age 24, while McDermott was committed to a mental hospital about the same age.
In contemporary times, consider another impressive list. In the last 50 years, McIlroy became only the 12th player to win a major in back-to-back years. The others were Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Ballesteros, Curtis Strange, Nick Faldo, Woods, Phil Mickelson and Harrington.
Woods doesn't usually offer his thoughts on players unless asked, and McIlroy was on everyone's mind Sunday at Kiawah.
"We all know the talent he has," Woods said, echoing his comments from three years ago. "He's got all the talent in the world to do what he's doing. And this is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it's pretty impressive to watch."
How to sustain that level of play?
"You just do it," Woods said.
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