PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — Rory McIlroy stands a good chance to be part of golf's next rivalry.
But with whom?
"There's a lot of great, young players that will be playing in majors for the next 20, 25 years that can really make their mark on the game," McIlroy said Wednesday. "So yeah, I wouldn't mind if I was always compared to someone — or not compared to someone else, but if my name was mentioned."
McIlroy is a great student of golf history, so he knows all about rivalries — Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. He also knows that it's not always about going head-to-head.
Nicklaus and Palmer first competed in the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, and they were in a U.S. Open playoff two years later at Oakmont. But they are just over 10 years apart in age. Faldo took down Norman at the 1990 British Open, and more famously at the 1996 Masters. Woods played in the final group with Mickelson at Augusta National when he won the 2001 Masters for his unprecedented sweep of the majors.
McIlroy said what made the Woods-Mickelson rivalry was their records more than their head-to-head meetings.
"If you think about it, over the past 15, 20 years, how many times have they actually went head-to-head?" he said. "It's not been that many. So golf doesn't create ... what maybe tennis would or some other sports. But there are still going to be guys coming through that are going to break through and win. If you guys, or the public, want to build a rivalry between people, the credentials have to be pretty similar."
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth have been mentioned as possibilities.
Fowler was runner-up in two straight majors and became the first player to finish in the top five at all four majors without winning. Spieth went from no status to a spot on the Presidents Cup team in one year. Through it all, both have one PGA Tour win apiece.