Rory McIlroy secured his second career PGA Championship victory and fourth career Major victory last weekend at Valhalla, a one-shot win over Phil Mickelson.

McIlroy’s emergence over the second half of 2014 – he also won The Open Championship in July – has garnered him praise from throughout the golf community, including the inevitable comparisons to Tiger Woods. Paul Azinger, the 1993 PGA Championship winner, didn’t measure McIlroy’s success against Tiger, but did have extremely high praise for the 25-year-old on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.

“I thought Rory was gonna have kind of an Ernie Els or Phil Mickelson type career anyway, and Ernie Els is probably top 15 or 20 all-time,” Azinger told Brian Katrek and John Maginnes. “You had high hopes for him. But now, I think he can become known as Europe’s greatest player ever. He’s on the cusp of that. He’s certainly brought in, and he’s rolled in, the new era. He’s put his stamp down on the game, and he may already be Europe’s best player ever. I don’t know how many wins he has total, but he’s already won three different majors, and I don’t know any other European that’s done that. So we’ll see. I think the world of him. He is a normal guy that can do common things in an uncommon way.”

Azinger also took a shot at analyzing what’s changed in McIlroy’s approach to the game between 2012, when he was the world’s No. 1 ranked golfer but proceeded to struggle in 2013, and now, when he’s playing the best golf of his career.

“Every great player’s challenge is longevity, especially with the amount of money,” Azinger said. “Desire is the first thing that can go, and wanting out of the spotlight is one of the great fears, I suppose. You have to embrace that spotlight. When he was world No. 1 a couple years ago, I think it caught him off guard. He was a little too young to be that. Now I feel he embraces it, and that’s where he wants to be.”

As for the McIlroy-Tiger comparisons, Azinger did bring up something he sees in the four-time Major champion that he also saw in the 14-time Major champion”

“It’s clear now that he has some qualities that others may not have,” he said. “I think Tiger’s been the greatest at this, but the will to win can overcome a mechanical breakdown. That’s just a fact. Because Tiger could finish last in fairways hit at places where, you miss the fairway – at Torrey Pines, and at Bay Hill – if you miss the fairways at Bay Hill, you miss the cut. And he can finish last in fairways hit and win the tournament. And he did it at Bay Hill and at Torrey Pines, he’s probably done it at other places. So his will to win can overcome a mechanical breakdown. He won five times last year, Tiger did, in spite of, not as a result of, great ball striking. And Rory McIlroy, he did that [Sunday.]”

“I could go on forever about the guy,” Azinger added. “But there is something different about him.”

See below for photos from Valhalla, and audio highlights of SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio’s comprehensive coverage of the 2014 PGA Championship.

Powered by VIP