By Mike Purkey for GlobalGolfPost
So, fellow travelers, what to make of this little bromance between Tiger and Rory, them suddenly looking like best buds and all?
Every time you look up lately, they are strolling down some fairway, side by side, smiling and chatting like they’re fraternity brothers. They’ve played together a handful of times late into this season, the last being this one-day exhibition in China in which each was paid a small boatload of money to turn up.
What do you suppose they talk about? Do they dissect the Celtic-Rangers football match? Or whether Ray Allen will get the Heat another NBA title? Did Tiger give Rory the name of his real estate agent and housekeeper? Well, maybe not the housekeeper. Did Tiger invite Rory over to throw something on the grill and play X-Box deep into the night?
Do you think they discuss what it’s like to have a famous girlfriend except in a good way?
If this is the new Tiger, we can’t be sure how to figure this one out. The old Tiger would have never given McIlroy the time of day, much less engage in some harmless convo during a competitive round of golf. Woods would have stared a hole through Rory the size of a cannonball and would have no other thoughts than to beat the living daylights out of his biggest challenger.
McIlroy is No. 1 in the world and Woods is No. 2. That in itself would normally have been enough for Tiger to keep Rory at arm’s length while he goes about the business of regaining the top ranking.
Woods certainly didn’t treat any other of his closest rivals, if you could call them actual rivals, anything like civil. He didn’t have any use for Phil Mickelson, not even for a minute, and when they played together, the only contact they had was a handshake and a nod on the first tee and the 18th green. In between, nothing, absolutely nothing.
The reason Tiger and Phil didn’t win either of their Ryder Cup matches together in 2004 was because both of them had contracted frostbite from the Arctic iceberg between them that prevented them from speaking a word to one another. Go get ’em, pards.
But now, they are Ping-Pong partners in the Ryder Cup team room and, according to Phil, are a dominant force. If Mickelson finds out that you play Pong, he’ll buy a table, set it up and bet you $100 he can kick your ass. Maybe he ought to try that in golf. Just saying.
Where were we? Oh, yes, is it possible that Tiger has turned into a docile house cat at age 37? Has the world’s greatest competitor decided he has nothing to prove? In the beginning of Jack Nicklaus’ career and for years thereafter, he was Arnold Palmer’s bitter rival. But when Arnie and Jack were no longer trying to beat each other’s brains out, they became friends, and now no one is closer than these two of the game’s most prominent citizens.
Or is Tiger a little more content to sit back and count his considerable coin and enjoy the good life that 14 majors bring?
Tiger has all the money that he will ever need and McIlroy is getting there. At the China exhibition, it was reported that Tiger received $2 million and McIlroy half that. Pretty good payday all around but it still demonstrates that Tiger still not only moves the needle but he is the needle.
Now, we see that Rory and Tiger are going to be teammates of sorts, as McIlroy is about to sign a big, long-term deal with Nike. Reported at $200 million – or more – for 10 years, McIlroy is about to rise near the top of off-course earnings among professional golfers. However, it’s not entirely certain what Woods is making but you can bet it’s more than that.
As the late, great Sen. Everett Dirksen used to like to say, “A billion here, a billion there and sooner or later, you’re talking about real money.”
And, it was reported that Woods and McIlroy have already shot their first Nike commercial together, engaging in some of what you call your light-hearted banter about the company’s new driver and what kind of insane distance they get from it.
It has been rightly pointed out that if McIlroy moves to Nike, he will get the equipment he needs to continue playing his best golf. There’s really nothing to worry about here. Nike has one of the best club designers in Tom Stites and golf ball builders in Rock Ishii. The company will make certain that it does whatever is necessary and go to whatever source is required to get something in McIlroy’s hands in which he has the utmost confidence.
So if golf’s new power couple shares a brand, do they share the same hunger to be the No. 1 player in the world? On the surface, Tiger and Rory look for all the world like best mates – but what’s underneath?
It is thought that Chinese general Sun-Tzu (The Art of War) once rightly said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
PHOTO: Global Golf Post