Turning 30 can be a daunting experience in life.
Of course, being one of the most recognisable and successful faces in the world of sport is certain to help soften the blow of reaching a major personal milestone.
But when it comes to Rory McIlroy, just how do you judge the career achievements of a player who many tipped to join the pantheon of golfing greats almost from the moment he arrived on the scene, complete with curly hair and now-trademark grin?
For all his undoubted genius, there is a constant murmuring around McIlroy that he has yet to fulfil his prodigious talent.
That seems harsh in the context of the fact that by the age of 30, only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods could boast more than McIlroy’s haul of 15 PGA Tour titles.
Indeed, McIlroy was supposed to assume the mantle of golf’s leading superstar from Woods, who ended an 11-year wait for a 15th major at the Masters last month
With that in mind, we have compared some of the key achievements between the pair by the time they turned 30.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) May 4, 2019
Woods’ aforementioned Masters success transcended the world of sport and raised the prospect he could overhaul Nicklaus’ overall record of 18 major titles. If he fails to do so, there may be a sense of regret that Woods – blighted by injuries so much in the past few years – did not add more victories in the big four during his 30s, having racked up 10 by the time he left his 20s. If McIlroy is to have any shot of matching Woods, let alone Nicklaus, he will need to speed things along in the next decade. The Northern Irishman has four majors to his name thus far, the last of which came at the US PGA Championship in 2014.
14 years after his last Masters victory, Tiger’s roar returns to Augusta. pic.twitter.com/AwFWljGPDL
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 15, 2019
At the height of his powers, Woods was an all-conquering machine who churned out titles. At the age of 30, he had won 46 events, including his major triumphs. To put that astonishing feat into context, Nicklaus had 30 (including seven majors). McIlroy, with 24, is some way shy of where Woods was at the same stage in his career, but he can take solace from the fact that the general trend – including for Nicklaus – is that wins for the game’s greats tend to accelerate in the 30s.
WEEKS AT NUMBER ONE
At the age of 30, Woods had spent a staggering 372 weeks at the top of the rankings, with his 10th stint at the top beginning a record 281-week run at number one. In fairness to McIlroy, only three players can boast more than his total tally of 95 weeks and he has ascended to the top on seven occasions.
— The Open (@TheOpen) 20 July 2014
MCILROY AT 30 FACTS
What is without question is that Woods is a phenomenon. However, that does not mean McIlroy has not enjoyed a stellar career, as these Opta facts help to show.
– McIlroy just needs the Masters to join Nicklaus, Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen in winning golf’s career Grand Slam.
– Since the beginning of 2009, the current world number four has only finished a calendar year outside the top 10 once (2017).
– Twice, in 2012 and 2014, McIlroy has been the year-end number one.
– Only Woods (15) and Phil Mickelson (5) among active golfers have more majors than McIlroy (4 – level with Ernie Els).
– At 22 years and 46 days, McIlroy won his first major at a younger age than Nicklaus (22 years and 147 days).
– His four majors arrived before he turned 26, the same tally as Nicklaus at the same age and one fewer than Woods.
– McIlroy’s 2012 US PGA Championship win was achieved by a record margin (eight shots), while he holds the lowest 72-hole score in a U.S. Open (268 shots in 2011).