Talk about calling your shots: It seems golf phenom Rory McIlroy was talking the talk well before he was walking the walk that has led him to the verge of history.
As the 25-year-old Northern Irishman approaches The Masters in hopes of joining some very elite company in golf's Career Grand Slam Club, McIlroy confirmed that he was writing “I'm coming to get you” letters to Tiger Woods as young as the age of 9. While the rest of were watching Woods dominate the PGA Tour in amazement, young Rory was already stalking him – and putting it in writing.
The timing of the New York Times' story seemed sure to add some spice to The Masters hype as McIlroy tries to become the second youngest career grand slam winner. He would be second only to Woods, who completed the feat at 24, and whose plane was allegedly spotted at the Augusta airport as he prepared for his comeback.
But this Masters will be all about McIlroy, whose childhood letters proved prophetic as he has already taken control of the golf world away from Woods. But chasing down Woods in the history books is another matter, and it starts on the steps of the Augusta National clubhouse. Coincidentally, the British tabloids ran with videos of a young McIlroy pretending to win The Masters. He's like the Nostradamus of golf.
It's that youthful brashness, along with his incredible ability to back it up, that makes McIlroy our Golfer of the Month – both for what he has already accomplished in his young career and for what he is about to do. Sixteen years after putting his prediction to be and beat the best on paper, his date with destiny is now only 72 holes away.
It doesn't seem that long ago that Woods was burning up the PGA Tour and announcers were saying that the player who would replace him as the world's No. 1-ranked golfer likely hadn't been born yet. Little did we know there was a 9-year-old living in Northern Ireland who was crafting his game and readying for a run at the record books.
Perhaps we should have seen him coming. McIlroy was hitting 40-yard drives at the age of 2 and made his first hole in one at 9, when he began his letter-writing campaign to Tiger. He won the Irish Open at 15, defended his title at 16, and turned pro at 17. McIlroy earned his first PGA Tour victory at 20, won the US Open at 21, claimed the PGA Championship at 22, and won them both at 24.
Now McIlroy is only one green jacket away from joining such legends as Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus and, of course, Woods as the only men to win all four majors in their illustrious careers. Woods completed the feat at the age of 24 and Nicklaus did it at 26, so McIlroy can literally put himself in the middle of the game’s greats.
While it’s way too early to consider The Masters McIlroy’s Waterloo, Augusta National has been far from kind to him so far. In the 2011 Masters, McIlroy blew a four-stroke lead to finish 15th, his best career finish in the tournament until last year. His eighth-place showing was a promising sign of things to come, for it’s only a matter of time before McIlroy dons the green jacket. But just as he predicted in those unsent letters to Tiger and half-joking videos as a child, McIlroy’s time just might be now.