We know you like the tunes. Klingande and Mr Probz these days, 50 Cent back in it. Just wondering: Do you have any say over the sound track on your Omega commercial? "Hall of Fame" was okay the first 73 times we heard it. Yes, we get it, we get it — don't give up your dreams. But could they not cycle in something else now and again? We propose "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)." (Check out the Baz Luhrmann video.) Among its gems: "Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth."
Everybody wants to advise you these days, it seems, maybe even Bill Clinton. Looks like you're doing fine all on your own. (How's life without an agent?) It wasn't that long ago that people were so worried about you for putting those many Nike clubs in your bag all at once, right? Advice-wise, we'll limit ourselves to two quickies. One: Remember the sunscreen. Two: The gym is overrated (but hot yoga is not). We remember seeing you hanging out in the lobby of the Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst this year, with your mates and your dad, enjoying refreshments, watching the world go by. More of that never hurt a man.
When Golf Magazine named you Player of the Year in 2011, we took some heat. Some people thought Yani Tseng, with her two majors, should have won the award in its inaugural year. A reasonable viewpoint. But we were impressed by the impact you had already made. No, it wasn't like Barack Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize in the first year of his presidency, which was really a bet on his future. We felt you'd had an amazing year, starting with that eight-stroke U.S. Open victory. We felt you were the real deal, had staying power and stood for all that is great in the game. In 2012, you added a PGA Championship, two other events, topped the PGA Tour money list and won our POY honors a second time.
Then came 2014, or the second half of it. You drove the ball better than anybody since Greg Norman in his plantation-hatted prime. Following in the tradition of Padraig Harrington, you won the British Open and the PGA in the same year, with no letup for 144 holes, along with beautiful putting. You had two other wins. You killed it on the U.S. money list (first), the old European Order of Merit (first), the World Ranking (first) and in press tents across the globe.
You know what's coming, sir: For the third time in four years, Rory McIlory, we are proud to name you our Player of the Year. Dinner at "21" in Midtown for you and your mates anytime you like, on us, plus a golf game anywhere you like in Clementon, N.J.
We love how you have embraced New York City, in the tradition of Dave Marr and not many other major winners. After your win at Valhalla, you came to Manhattan and by all appearances had yourself a good time. Back in his Sports Illustrated days, Dan Jenkins named Marr — whose name is on the Wanamaker Trophy alongside yours — "the pro from 52nd Street." How cool, that you are playing the world and exploring its capitals. Golf Magazine and SI are, by the way, on Sixth Avenue, between 50th and 51st, across the street from NBC. You're famously single now. Did you realize Emma Stone, who's about your age, has been a two-time host of Saturday Night Live? When she gets her third, we'll buy her dinner, too. What the heck.
You look to be living large, and why wouldn't you be? You have experienced more in 12 months than most people will in their lifetimes. This year was some trip.
On New Year's Day, we learned you were engaged to the lovely Caroline Wozniacki, globe-trotting tennis star. Every time we looked at Golf.com, she seemed to be at one of your tournaments, you seemed to be at one of hers, or you were both on some fabulous vacation together. But all the while your golf was uninspired.
Then, in late May, you made what had to be the hardest decision of your life: You realized you weren't ready to get married, and you broke off the engagement. (Maybe you learned something from the life and times of Tiger Woods?) That very week, you went out and won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth — starting seven strokes back on Sunday, no less. Whoa. What does that say about the role of the mind in this insane game?
Ever since the breakup, you've been playing like Tiger Woods in his prime. To be candid, we didn't see that coming. We didn't know you had the relentless gene, the one that let Woods truly bring it every time out for a decade or more. We were fooled by those longish naps you took after your U.S. Open win in 2011 and your PGA Championship win in 2012, to say nothing of your kind of meh 2013.
And because past performance really does predict future results, at least sometimes, we weren't surprised to see you win the British Open at Hoylake. Your next two outings, though, were the true revelations: your victory at the Bridgestone in Akron (with drives so long and straight), and then the best win of your career, the PGA Championship at Valhalla. Your game was a little bit off in Kentucky, but you gutted it out. You were being chased by Phil, Rickie and the setting sun. You played with the heat on, and you rose with it. Way cool.
The Ryder Cup was pure icing. You played five times, often like a genius, and helped lead the Europeans to another victory. You're three-for-three as a Ryder Cupper. Most impressive.
This new year that yawns before us promises to be fascinating. We wonder: Are you now, mentally and physically, poised to follow in the tradition of…Tiger Woods?
Prepare yourself. You'll see your name and his in the same sentence a million times in 2015. It's funny, because one of the messages you've always delivered (and maybe it's been subliminal) is this: "I am not Tiger Woods." Woods has always talked about trying to become the best golfer ever. You have always talked about being the best golfer you can be.
This year, something changed. You started saying that your immediate goal is to become the European golfer (modern era) with the most majors. (Scoreboard: Sir Nick, six; Rory, four.) We could relate to your old goal more. Because when you get to those majors and you try your best and grind it out and post a score, you still can't control what another person will do. But you'll do it your way and that's fine. We're not you.
The trick, from here on out, will be to make sure you don't become a boring person. Because no man, or woman, can live on golf alone. Tiger Woods discovered that. So did Yani Tseng. Add David Duval to the list, if you need these things in groups of three.
You have the ideal mentor in Jack W. Nicklaus. If anybody can help you with your missing piece — Augusta — it's Big Jack, with his six green coats.
Jack can help paint the big canvas, too. Granted, Nicklaus doesn't know what it's like to play the Tour as an eligible bachelor. He was married from the start. And he doesn't know what it's like to be a star in a time of 24-7 surveillance. The golf writers in his day were off-season football writers. But he does know what it's like to balance the golf life with skiing, tennis, fishing. Side businesses. Philanthropy. True friends. Wife and kids. That is, wife and kids when the time is right. Time's on your side.
In the meantime, keep applying the sunscreen. Don't live in the gym; give yourself an off-season. The game will be here when you're back, and so will we.