Commentary

Don't knock Tiger off his perch yet

Updated: June 29, 2011, 6:23 PM ET
By Kevin Maguire | ESPN.com

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Ever since Rory McIlroy steamrolled the field at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, the Tiger Woods comparisons have been endless. And rightfully so.

The young Northern Irishman thrust himself into those conversations simply by breaking records en route to his first major win.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods, Rory McIlroy
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesAt the end of the day, Tiger Woods has 14 majors and Rory McIlroy -- at just 22 years old -- owns one.

So what say Tiger about all this challenger-to-the-throne talk?

"I'm 35, I'm not 65," Woods said Tuesday at Aronimink Golf Club, host of this week's AT&T National. "I've still got some years ahead of me. Golf is unlike any other sport. I mean, [Tom] Watson was what, 59 years old when he almost won [the British Open in 2009]? We can play for a very long time. And given that we have the health to do it, guys have succeeded for a very long time.

"That's what I would like to do is play this game for as long as I want to. I feel like my best years are still ahead of me working with [swing coach] Sean [Foley] and some of the things that we're trying to do. I just need to get out there and practice and then implement it and put it all together and come out here."

There is certainly a healthy respect from Woods for what McIlroy accomplished outside Washington, D.C.

"That was pretty good, wasn't it?" Woods said. "That was some serious playing. … To do that at a U.S. Open, to be that aggressive the entire time, that was cool to watch."

But Woods said his current focus isn't on the latest sensation that's considered the next big thing in golf.

"Is [McIlroy's win] motivating? Absolutely not," Woods said. "My motivation right now is to get back to where I can play the way I know I can play and feeling good again because I haven't felt good in a number of years. I'm looking forward to that."

Woods did admit that McIlroy's swing, at the same age, was better than his own. Tiger's quick to point out, though, that over the next few years when he won the Tiger Slam to hold all four major championship trophies, his game came together quite nicely.

Whether it's McIlroy, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson or a host of other up-and-comers in the game, in a best-case scenario, fans will have at least 5-10 more years of Tiger with all these youngsters rising up through the ranks to challenge all sorts of golf records.

So don't toss Tiger to the curb just yet.

But the idea that golf needs a single golfer to overtake Woods is a mistaken concept. Over the years, fans and the media alike desperately wanted a Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods cage match that, for the most part, never came to be.

Golf just doesn't work like that. And the game was just fine without Tiger-Phil duking it out on the back nine at Augusta National every April.

A plethora of fresh blood to infuse the game, however, would do just as well.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Kevin.Maguire@espn.com.

Kevin Maguire is the senior golf editor for ESPN.com.

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