John McHenry: McIlroy, Spieth fill the void as Tiger’s star on the wane

Great athletes are a curious breed. For those who don’t know them in many circumstances, they appear single-minded, aloof and even obnoxious.

The world of professional golf is no different. Names like Faldo, Montgomerie and Woods are as famous for their brash demeanour as they are for their great golfing skills.

Their skills have earned them wealth beyond belief but more and more in today’s world of intrusion, especially with social media we want more. We want them to be nice people too, people who conform to our everyday standards. Sometimes, that is just not possible.

The revelation of Tiger Woods’ off-the-course activities is a case in point, but does that make his golfing achievements any less impressive?

After all, he was feted as a genius in 2008 when he won his last major championship, long before his spectacular fall from grace, so why should his achievements be viewed any differently now? Sure he lived a strange life but many of the greatest sportmen that I have ever met are weird. They are not my cup of tea but that doesn’t stop me marvelling at their achievements.

This past week, I have been reading and listening with fascination to the shenanegans with the GAA and how a Tyrone player’s actions have supposedly brought the organisation into disrepute. What a load of rubbish. Sportsmen and women in every code will take every opportunity to get one up on their opponent.

Great athletes and great teams will always find a way to win. Sure it might be unconventional, but every new achievement or record is also unconventional because it has never been done before.

Just look at how much Jack Nicklaus was hated early in his career when he threatened the dominance of Arnold Palmer. Times change and the emergence of new talent or new ideas are often unpopular but most often change brings about a higher standard from those who have learned best and who have the bravery to push on regardless of opinion.

Great coaches, great teams and great players find a way to succeed. They are not bound by the limitations of the majority, they are the dreamers (AP McCoy, Schumacher, Messi, Bolt, Nicklaus) who have no boundaries. Driven and determined their minds can only cope with success.

Failure is not an option, yet they inherently understand that sporting records come and go and all they want is to be major contributors to their time.

More and more it seems today as if Woods’ days of being a perennial winner of tournaments and major championships are over. In his prime, I have never come across a more complete competitor. Much like Michael Jordan before him, he dominated and retired many greats around him and his longevity, skill and tenacity mark him as one of the greatest sporstman of all time.

Yes, his off-course actions tarnished the integrity of the game of golf but it is sad to see that the greatest impact of his actions have been to himself and I hope he soon finds the motivation he now needs to move forward again.

Like any dominant force, from Jordan to Woods, people get bored of greatness. They want a fresh face and how lucky golf is at the moment to have McIlroy and Spieth Spieth’s performance yesterday was hugely impressive in that he buried emphatically any “intimidation factor” he may have felt playing with McIlroy.

This was a big moment in the tournament because McIlroy’s rustiness hurt while Spieth’s innate confidence shone for all to see. Like all great champions he has found a way to get into the tournament and at five under par he has now laid down a marker to the rest of the field that he will be a factor over the coming days.

Dustin Johnson and others of course will want to have their own say and so too will McIlroy but once again Rory’s second successive 71 risks him falling too far behind a pack that will not come back to him.

Once again it has been emphatically proven that their is no substitute for competition. No matter how hard Rory may have tried during his enforced lay-off you can not simulate competition 100% in training, so missing vital tournament time at this time of the year has been very costly. That said, McIlroy is game and every day he will get stronger.

Spieth on the other hand has his eyes now firmly set just on yet another major championship. Achieving that remarkable outcome will not come easily on a course waiting to punish errant golf shots but champions are made of much sterner stuff. They find a way and just like yesterday’s round it seems that Spieth is mounting an irresistible charge

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