McGinley: McIlroy still evolving
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley believes Rory McIlroy has a long way to go before he deserves to be compared to Tiger Woods.
The two players head to Augusta for the Masters in starkly contrasting form, with McIlroy needing to win a first green jacket to complete the career grand slam and Woods having only confirmed his participation in the year's first major championship on Friday.
Woods has started just two events in 2015, shooting a career-worst score of 82 to miss the cut in the first of them and withdrawing through injury after just 11 holes of the second.
However, McGinley experienced first hand how much Woods dominated the game in the early part of his career to amass 14 major titles, including the 'Tiger Slam' of US Open, Open Championship and US PGA in 2000, as well as the 2001 Masters to hold all four major titles at once.
"Rory is evolving as a player and he's evolving as a person too. He's not the finished article," McGinley said. "Even now at 25 it's not right to compare him to Tiger Woods.
"What Tiger Woods has done in his career is a yardstick. Rory is still evolving towards that and every year he is getting better and better, but he still has a long way to go to meet the standards that Tiger set.
"Also, the great thing about Tiger was the way and the varying conditions that he won in. You see him win at Augusta obviously, but you see him winning at the Open in Hoylake (in 2006), on a firm, bouncy golf course. He showed two disciplines there; he showed massive ball control, b ut secondly to be able to play an examination paper like Hoylake, it's all about patience. And he exemplified that there.
"A nd that's one of the things that Rory knows he has to improve, that level of patience, if he wants to evolve to the heights that Tiger set."
McIlroy's lack of patience got the better of him when he threw his three iron into a lake at Doral following a poor shot in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March, with the pressure of Augusta perhaps already beginning to tell.
The world number one is well aware he is on the verge of joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods in an exclusive club by winning all four majors, but McGinley believes he does have one thing in his favour.
"What's been clever about what Rory's done is that he hasn't put a number on the number of majors he wants to win," added McGinley, who will be at the Masters in Augusta commentating for Sky Sports, the only place to watch all four days live. " He's not chasing anybody's record. And that's been very clever.
"To a large extent I wonder if that has hindered Tiger more than anything else, because everyone is relating him to Jack Nicklaus (Nicklaus has 18 majors, Woods 14). And if he doesn't reach Jack Nicklaus' level then some people will say, 'Well he didn't get quite as good as Nicklaus.'
"And that would be a shame considering the career Tiger has had. Rory hasn't done that, he's just said I'm going to keep on playing and whatever number of titles I end up with at the end of my career, I end up with."
Almost forgotten amongst the focus on winning the career grand slam is that McIlroy is also aiming to win his third major title in succession after the Open and US PGA last year.
A dramatic victory in near-darkness at Valhalla saw McIlroy pushed the hardest in any of his four major wins and McGinley believes the Northern Irishman will benefit from similar challenges in the future.
"A rival will be good for Rory," McGinley added. "If Dustin (Johnson) steps up to the plate like some people are expecting him to, or Jordan Spieth, or Rickie Fowler... some of those guys step up and win a major, that'll only be good for him because Rory has reacted well to adversity and guys challenging him in the past.
" The biggest challenge that Rory has got is keeping the fire lit in his heart. That's what made Tiger phenomenal, being at the top for as long as he was. At the moment Rory's had it for a number of years, he's got that incredible passion. Keeping that lit for another 20 years is another question."