It was a case of celebrations all round for Rory McIlroy at the weekend as he celebrated his 25th birthday by finishing in a tie for eighth at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Just a few years ago, though, the Northern Irishman was tipped by many to dominate golf for years to come, to win a string of majors, and to become the next Tiger Woods.
Now in his seventh year as a professional, Rory McIlroy’s attempt to meet those expectations have somewhat stalled.
In 2011, at the age of 22, he won his first major, the US Open, claiming the record for the lowest ever 72-hole total in US Open history in the process. He quickly followed that up in 2012 by winning the USPA Championship by a record eight shots, doubling his major tally.
At that point the comparisons with Woods are on track, however, unlike Tiger, who went on to win three out of the four majors the following year, Rory McIlroy lost his world No. 1 ranking, and failed to win a single PGA Tour event in 2013 event. Quite a slump that has been put down to struggles in his life away from the course, as well as an equipment change that proved turbulent at best.
The future is looking brighter for Rory McIlroy in 2014, and he seems to have finally adjusted to his new irons - finishing in the top-ten in his last two tournaments – including at the Masters.
If Rory is to grab hold of the No.1 spot once more, and make a real challenge to dominate the game like Tiger Woods once did, he must develop the intangible ‘fear-factor’.
His record-breaking major wins in 2011 and 2012 sent shockwaves through the golfing world, although since then, the Irishman has mellowed.
As he turns 25 he still has time on his side, but the next five years are crucial.
If he can win a major this year, or produce heroics in the Ryder Cup, this could well spark the confidence he needs to go from strength to strength.
He seems to have it all in terms of playing ability, but he needs to develop the killer instinct Tiger was famed for I believe the only man capable of dominating the game is Rory McIlroy.
By the time he hits 30 we will have our answer. Will Rory McIlroy become the winning machine he was expected to be? A player who is unstoppable on his day, and appears invincible to the rest of the field. Or will he struggle to find the confidence, and just be one of many contenders, as he is now.
Only time will tell.
Rory McIlroy: Your thoughts
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