For the past two decades — yes, two decades exactly (that is when Tiger won his first of three U.S. Junior Amateurs) there has been one, contemporary model of how to dominate golf. The blueprint was witnesses by thousands of junior golfers and attempted by most to achieve one man’s level of greatness.
The blueprint: a compulsive practice regime — to the extent of sacrificing social development, weekly meetings with the sport psychologist, morning workouts, and little time for growing up. The game of golf is a microcosm of life, not the other way around. A pint of Guinness? Forget about it. Joking back and forth on the latest social network? No need, the PR team includes it in their services. All business with scheduled pleasure was the model: sacrifice the whole for the sake of the specific.
This model crumbled when a well-rounded, normal twenty-two year old Irishman named Rory McIlroy proved there is another way to dominate.
Same Story, Different Ending
I’ve rooted for Tiger in every tournament he’s competed. Starting when national superstardom blanketed him in the 1996 U.S. Amateur final against Steve Scott. Two down with three to play, Tiger willed his way to victory on the 38th hole of competition at Pumpkin Ridge. It’s important to remember, Tiger had what Rory has.
During the Tuesday practice round of the 1997 Masters was the first time I spoke to Tiger. He walked off the 8th green to the 9th tee — if you can believe it, in the afternoon — and surprisingly there weren’t many people following him. As he approached the 9th tee box, I said, “Good luck this week Tiger, I’m rooting for you.” He looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you” with a happy-go-lucky grin. He had a fan for life.
It was years later the superstardom facade would crush the foundation of a hero.
This can’t happen to Rory. He grew up in Northern Ireland; regardless of skill and promise, oversized-egos will get you beat out of the bar (I’ve seen it before). Rory’s home town will always be a retreat from superficial levels the media thrusts him. Tiger’s retreat was his father; with Earl’s passing so did the final part of Tiger pre-superstardom.
A New Model
Rory’s veteran-stomping proved to the world there is another way to dominate besides being manufactured by a hired entourage. Talent, hard work, and constant improvement are always the recipe, balancing them with life’s most important building blocks is the hard part. He’s accomplished that magnificently and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue for years to come. All juniors should replicate the new model.