Bunker Mentality

McIlroy proves he’s the heir to Tiger’s throne

Bunker Mentality

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Tiger Woods
and Rory McIlroy haven't shared a green at this 75th Masters, but
their stories have been entwined from the moment the 21-year-old shot a first-round 65.

Woods
responded with a throwback of a 66 on Friday, setting up the third round as a battle
of golf's great pretender against its wounded master.

What would
give first - McIlroy's nerve, or Tiger's greasy grip on his more illustrious
past?

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As it turns
out the Ulsterman earned a convincing victory, one that will serve him well as
he seeks to win his first Major championship with a four-shot lead on Masters
Sunday.

While Woods
spluttered and toiled, forcing his shots and missing the kind of putts he used
to make on autopilot, McIlroy went about his business like a seasoned champion.

He didn't
set the course alight, but he didn't have to. And the fact he appreciated that,
suggests the passing of Rory and Tiger's careers - on opposite trajectories -
may come sooner than expected.

On Saturday
there were two defining moments that hinted at the nature of their relationship
to come.

At the
par-five 15th, Woods found his path to the flag blocked by trees,
only to summon a vicious, controlled snap-hook and find the green.

It was the
kind of shot that makes you feel nostalgic for the Tiger we used to desperately
want beaten. But that player, when he got there, would never have three-putted.

McIlroy was
in a similar predicament on the same hole. He played the same wicked draw
around the trees, got an even better result, and went on to make birdie. Tiger's
genius had been undermined in the space of five short minutes.

And then there was
the 17th, which saw McIlroy salvage a wayward drive with a sensational
approach and roll in a ripsnorting putt for birdie. It was positively Tiger-esque, and
all the more ironic for the fact Tiger himself was forced to step away from his
shot on 18 until the cheers subsided.

And so the
battle ended with Woods two shots worse off than he started, and McIlroy two
better. And Woods seven shots behind the man best placed to take on his legacy.

Some will
believe he can still win on Sunday, but I'm not among them. It's not just because
his game is too erratic, and his confidence too fragile.

It's also because
people aren't afraid of him anymore.

- Will Tidey

@willtidey

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