Tiger Woods: Rory McIlroy's Exit Opens Door for Tiger to Reclaim His Throne

Ryan DavenportContributor IMarch 2, 2013

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - MARCH 02:  Tiger Woods of USA plays a shot during the third round of the Honda Classic on March 2, 2013 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Since Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 2011, the Northern Ireland native has gradually become the darling of the PGA tour. 

Nobody really thinks that the soft-spoken 23-year-old will ever catch Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus in terms of majors, but at least for the time being, McIlroy appears to be the only man on the tour who could one day challenge Tiger in terms of popularity. 

That's not just because he's young and immensely talented, obviously—it also had something to do with Tiger's repeated infidelities and failure to win a major since 2008. 

Woods' play has improved over time since he returned to the tour in 2010, but due to Rory's emergence as the sport's "next big thing," he's begun to take a back seat to the two-time major champion. 

However, Friday's development could change that (via The Boston Globe): 

McIlroy told reporters who followed him to his car that it was nothing physical but that he was ‘‘not in a good place mentally.’’

An hour later, he released a statement through his management company that he couldn’t concentrate because of a sore wisdom tooth.

Anyone can understand being unable to perform due to injury, but for fans, sometimes playing through the pain, even if the outcome isn't a successful one, is an indication of how bad athletes want to win. 

For example, what moment in Tiger's career stands out above all else? It's not even a question, because his performance at the 2008 U.S. Open may go down as the most memorable showing in PGA Tour history.

He didn't just win in dramatic playoff fashion. He did it while playing through an excruciatingly painful injury, one that caused him to undergo season-ending knee surgery in 2008. 

That's part of Tiger's legacy, and more importantly, it's why if you see a golf tournament on the television while flipping through channels. You tune in to see how the greatest and most dominant athlete of this generation is doing. 

Rory is still the sport's next iconic figure, but two majors at a young age aren't enough to supplant the most recognizable golfer of all time, and yesterday only cemented that.