Atlanta, Georgia: Rory McIlroy refused to pronounce an end to golf's Tiger Woods era on the eve of the 93rd PGA Championship, but the reigning US Open champion hopes to hasten a new age by winning more majors.
"I'm playing very well," McIlroy said Wednesday. "As long as I can hole a few putts this week, I feel as if I'm in with a good chance."
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman will be among the favorites at Atlanta Athletic Club when the year's last Major opens Thursday with Woods, a 14-time major champion, back after left leg injuries that have sidelined him since May.
"I don't think it's quite a new era yet until other guys start to win majors regularly like he did," McIlroy said.
"It's very hard to do that anyway. But he is only 35 years old. He's got another good 10 years in him if he wants it."
McIlroy was hailed as the next coming of Woods after his major breakthrough in June at Congressional Country Club, coming on the heels of a superb effort at the Masters until a back-nine Sunday collapse.
Having shared third at the past two PGA Championships and contended in the past two British Opens as well, McIlroy has sealed his spot as one to watch from a new generation of stars who would love to see Woods back at his best.
"It would definitely be a challenge if Tiger got back to his best," McIlroy said. "I mean, he didn't give anyone else a chance 10 years ago. So yeah, it would be great to measure yourself up against that.
"But on the other side of it, if he does get back to the way he played, it gives us less of a chance to win. Sort of a double-edged sword."
Former World No. 1 Woods, now ranked 30th, has not won since November of 2009 at the Australian Masters, just before his infamous sex scandal erupted and destroyed his marriage and iconic pitchman image.
Once an intimidating presence with an aura of invincibility when leading late in majors, Woods has since been humbled while McIlroy says he has never been intimidated or seen himself as having such an aura he can affect rivals.
"I don't think I've ever felt intimidated by anyone else on the golf course because they can't control what your ball does," McIlroy said. "They can't control how you swing it. They should not be able to have any effect on you.
"I'm not the most imposing figure in the game, so I don't think I would be able to intimidate anyone, either."
McIlroy says he feels the PGA and Masters are the majors that suit his game best and that he is a better player than he was a year ago, having learned more from his squandered chance at Augusta National than his US Open triumph.
The big lesson was simple -- he doesn't need to be the next Tiger Woods, just the best Rory McIlroy he can be.
"The biggest thing I learned from the Masters was just to be yourself," said McIlroy. "I felt as if I was a completely different person on that Sunday at Augusta and I didn't need to be. I didn't need to change. I didn't need to be more focused. I didn't need to concentrate more. I learned from that.
"From Congressional until now -- you learn more from your defeats than you do from your wins, so on the golf course I haven't learned maybe as much as I did at the Masters, but off the golf course I've learned a lot about how to deal with things.
"I'm still trying to deal with things, but trying to get used to a bit more attention. But it's a great position to be in and I'm just excited about trying to win my second major."