Pete Cowen: Rory McIlroy needs to learn from Tiger’s mistakes

Tiger was the first modern day golfing athlete others have emulated but you need to manage the power to preserve the body from burning out.

Congratulations on your 200th issue anniversary of Worldwide Golf. That’s an achievement considering many thought you were crazy to start a golf magazine with just a handful of golf courses. A lot has happened in golf over the last 20 years and in my book the biggest change in the game has been that today’s Tour players, with a few exceptions, are proper athletes.

Many believe the professional game has changed with the evolution of the equipment and technology has certainly enabled average or even ordinary golfers to play well above their real capability. But I’d argue that the technology helps but it’s the man who makes it work to his advantage.

When all the talk is about players hitting the ball longer you have to take into account that Jack Nicklaus was doing just that many years ago, but it wasn’t an issue in those days. In the 1970 Open Championship on the Old Course at St Andrews Nicklaus drove the par-four 18th green every day of the Championship and in the play-off with Doug Sanders he hit it over the green.

The tee box on the par-four 18th hasn’t changed since those days 48 years ago but today’s players still struggle to make the green off the tee. So you’ve got to say it’s not the clubs it’s the man who has got the pure strength, physique and technique to control the ball and hit it longer. One player that certainly has the athletic ability and natural talent like Jack is Rory. I know he was disappointed with his missed opportunity in last month’s Desert Classic, losing to China’s Li Haotung, as I thought he was playing well enough to win it.

The Majlis course was set up ideally for low scoring and with virtually no wind all week it was no surprise to see a winning score of 23 under-par. So many people regard par as being important. It’s not. The only thing that matters is that lowest score wins. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 22-under or 42-under – where you stand with your competitors is who has played fewer shots than anyone else.

Although Rory slipped up over the closing holes, he is potentially the best player in the world. He’s got no fear of hitting driver and when you can carry the ball as far as he does, the course looks a whole lot different. With that length the other guys have got to play that much better than their normal game. They got to up the anti or they’ll slip further behind. Rory has the ability to take out corners, bunkers, and most hazards. He can make any course so much smaller than it is. It’s a massive advantage.

When I was coach of the full Irish team, Rory was a member of the side when he was only 14 and he was driving it longer than most of the men. His ability has not just happened. He’s developed gradually into the great player he is. If he stays fit I can see him increase his Major wins from four to many more. He’s got all the time in the world to take his Major count closer to Tiger’s 14 but he needs to manage the strain on his body.

It was good to see Tiger in such good form in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines at San Diego. Woods showed he is still a force to be reckoned with. He may have hit only three fairways in his final round but who knows if he did that to prove a point. Imagine if players are thinking what happens if he starts hitting fairways? When he gets up to speed he could get back to his best and that is what he will want the players to believe. Regardless of the mind games that might be going on, one thing is for sure and that’s the game desperately needs him back in contention.

When you have so much natural talent you can achieve almost anything in any sport. Take Roger Federer, who was out of tennis for two years through injury, and came back to win the Australian Open last month to complete his 20th Grand Slam. Don’t be surprised if Tiger Woods repeats the Swiss icon’s performance and adds to his Major haul.