Is Rory McIlroy the next Tiger Woods?

Rory McIlroy's impressive victory at the 2011 US Open shattered a dozen records. His dominance already has many comparing the young man from Northern Ireland to Tiger Woods.

Nick Wass/AP
Rory McIlroy hugs his father Gerry on the 18th green after winning the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, June 19, 2011.

Is Rory McIlroy the Celtic Tiger?

He certainly reminded fans of a young Tiger Woods with the emphatic manner in which he crushed all opponents at the US Open at Congressional.

The 22 year old from Northern Ireland broke 12 records (including a few set by Tiger Woods) in his 16-under-par victory Sunday and his first win of a golf "major" tournament.

More importantly, he vanquished all memories of his final round collapse at the Masters in April.

The truth is, Rory McIlory has been knocking on the door of greatness for the past year. In four of the last seven of golf's majors, he's finished in the top 3.

How big was Sunday's win?

His 16-under-par victory not only bested Tiger Wood's famous 14-under-par US Open win at Pebble Beach in 2000, it was two strokes better than the last 10 US Open champions combined.

Of course, one major win doesn't make Rory another Tiger Woods. Woods has 71 PGA tour wins, and 14 major tournament victories under his belt. This is Rory's first major. But every professional golfer who's played with him is impressed by his swing, his shot-making, and now his poise. He has the skills and temperament of a champion.

McIlroy is aware of the comparison.

"Tiger has been the biggest thing for the game of golf ever. He brought golf to places in the world that other people just couldn't do and he's been huge for golf, McIlroy told the media after his win Sunday. "I don't think I'll ever be as big for the game as he is, or certainly was, for the last 15 years."

And unlike the aloof Woods, who has kept the media and public at arms length, McIlroy is refreshingly open. As Golf Digest columnist Ron Sirak put it: "In that way, McIlroy is already miles ahead of Woods. He has the charm and innocence of a kid. If that doesn't change, and the wins keep coming, the game of golf has found itself something very special."

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