Rory McIlroy has four major titles. He’s been No. 1 in the world multiple times. He just won the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize. His estimated brand value, according to his management company, is in the area of $400 million.
And despite everything he has accomplished, McIlroy could conceivably show up in some public places and not get recognized. It’s nothing against the Ulsterman; it’s just the reality for most golfers.
Tiger Woods doesn’t enjoy the luxury of anonymity — anywhere, ever. Woods’ dominance helped him transcend golf to become a sporting and cultural icon. Winning 14 majors and owning the sport in a way no one ever truly has will do that for a guy. But it comes with a price, one McIlroy now realizes he’s not willing to pay for greatness.
In a wide-ranging, must-read interview with the Irish Independent, McIlroy said he “could not live like that.”
McIlroy gave even a simple example of how fame has paralyzed Woods’ social options.
“I’ve seen it first-hand,” McIlroy said. “I’ve seen what his life is like in Florida. I’ve played golf with him and said: ‘What are you doing tonight? Do you want to come and have dinner with us?’ And he can’t. He just can’t. And for me that’s unfathomable.”
The guy can’t go to a social dinner without getting hounded? Can you imagine that? McIlroy doesn’t want to, and he even went so far as to say that he would gladly trade in potential major wins, falling short of Woods’ second-best all-time total, if he could guarantee some sense of normalcy for the rest of his life.
“If someone was to say, ‘You can have 14 majors and 70 wins but have to deal with (what Tiger deals with), or nine majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are,’” McIlroy said, “I’d take the second option all day.”
Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor.