Greg Norman: ‘McIlroy Can Carry The Baton For Golf’

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Rory McIlroy (Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy (Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Former golfing great Greg Norman won the British Open on two occasions, had multiple runner-up finishes at the other three majors and was the No. 1 player in the world – for several years, actually.

In other words, Norman knows golf, and Norman knows scrutiny.

So what do we make of Rory McIlroy? John Feinstein believes McIlroy can be the best golfer in the world and that he’s extremely well-prepared to deal with everything that comes with that.

Is Feintstein correct?

In a word, yes.

“Well, I totally agree with you,” said Norman, the Hall-of-Famer and soon-to-be FOX Sports golf analyst. “I’ll tell you what, to me, was the most telling point: the way he has handled and dealt with his private life and moved on (from his breakup with Caroline Wozniacki) and got inside the ropes. You knew he had to make a tough decision, for whatever reason. I do not know; I do not care. But when you are in the public eye, it does become scrutinized. But he handled that.”

“And once he made that decision,” Norman continued, “it was (final): I’m moving on, and this is what I want to do. That, to me, was a defining moment in Rory McIlroy’s very young life – not just his career, but his young life – because he seized the moment for what he thought was right and he’s moved on with it.”

It’s clearly affected McIlroy’s play, too – for the better. McIlroy won the Open Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational in July.

“When you look at him play golf now – and I did (Thursday) when I was walking out – he is just at peace with himself on the golf course,” Norman said, “and it’s oozing through his shot-making ability.”

Indeed, McIlroy opened The PGA Championship with a double-bogey and a bogey – and then he birdied four straight. True, you can’t win a major on a Thursday, but you sure can lose one.

McIroy didn’t.

In fact, he shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday and a 4-under 67 on Friday. He is currently atop the leader board as several other golfers make their way through the second round.

“It tells you, again, that he’s completely seized the composure that’s within him and really is embracing the situation right now,” Norman said.

Norman, 59, has not had many conversations with McIlroy over the years, but he definitely likes what he sees – both from a golf standpoint and from a maturity standpoint.

“I have not spent a lot of time with him, but I am a big fan of his,” Norman said. “I’ve let him know that on numerous occasions. I think he has the capability of carrying the baton for the game of golf because I truly believe he puts the game of gold ahead of everything else.”

If McIlroy carries the baton, though, he’ll need to take it from Tiger Woods. Snatch it is more like it.

Yes, Woods – despite poor health and subpar performances – still receives the bulk of coverage. Why is that?

“Quite honestly, I think Rory’s probably loving it,” Norman said. “He can just do what he loves to do, and that’s play the game of golf. (But) Tiger Woods is a story, there’s no question about it. There are individuals who embrace that type of thing, and there are individuals who do not. But he is a story. People do need to milk it because they do need ratings. You need content and he carries the banner for that content more than anybody else.”

Norman, however, thinks it’s a little much.

“I don’t necessarily like it, personally,” he said. “I think there are so many other great stories out there in the game of golf. It’s not just (players like Rory McIlroy), and it’s not just players. It’s what’s happening with the development of the game of golf around the world that deserves attention and is not getting any.”

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