Dubai: They are supposedly the new BFF in men’s golf, with Rory McIlroy recently joining Tiger Woods on the Nike bandwagon on a record deal. While that may be so, people seem more keen to talk about their rivalry, with some even suggesting that McIlroy has more raw talent and that he is better than what Woods was at this age.
To be fair to the 23-year-old Irishman, he himself is not swayed by such comparisons, having told XPRESS in an interview some time back that he has a long way to go to catch Woods, a view that is shared by four-time Major winner and Woods’ contemporary Ernie Els.
In an interview ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship starting on Thursday, Els said: “Rory is an incredible talent, but they’re at different stages of their careers. For me, Rory isn’t at the level Tiger was between 1998 and 2001, but probably no one ever will be. I don’t think anyone will play golf like that again. It was incredible.”
The former World No.1, nicknamed ‘The Big Easy’ for his imposing physique and his fluid swing, won his fourth major at the 2012 Open Championship, his first in 10 years, having won the same title way back in 2002 and the 43-year-old says the Claret Jug always remains a prized possession.
“It feels good winning the Open, that’s the Holy Grail. I’m taking that beautiful old Claret Jug with me everywhere!” he said.
Incidentally, the Claret Jug was on display at the golf club designed by him in Dubai and Els hopes to add a fourth title in the Middle East to his three Dubai Desert Classic titles.
“Hopefully I can win number four. I’m excited about my first appearance in Abu Dhabi. I’ve heard it’s a great tournament, strong golf course, so obviously it would be great to add this title to my Middle East collection,” he said.
Els won his first Dubai Desert Classic in 1994 and he believes it will take more than just big names playing in the region to get more people playing the game here. “You need a lot of young kids taking up the game, so maybe the numbers aren’t quite there yet. I don’t know. But these things take time, he said.
The South African was one of the few golfers in the early 90s to play on both sides of the Atlantic and he believes that other top players are doing their bit to globalize the sport further.
“A lot of the American guys are travelling a bit more than they used to. When you look at the way the tournament schedules are developing in Europe and even on the PGA Tour, it’s the way the game is going. It’s a global game now more than ever,” he said.
Els has 19 titles on the PGA Tour and 27 titles on the European Tour
Besides the Open Championship, Els has also won the US Open twice
He has also finished in 2nd place twice at the Masters and 3rd/tied 3rd twice at the PGA Championship