Rory McIlroy: Tiger Woods could have another 10 years in him
McIlroy hoping Quail Hollow will help in his bid to improve ‘pathetic’ record at US Open
Rory McIlroy will use the Wells Fargo Championship as preparation for the US Open. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty
Rory McIlroy has warned that a rejuvenated Tiger Woods could have 10 years left as he attempts to overtake Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories.
Woods, 43, secured win number 15 at last month’s Masters in Augusta after a gap of 11 years following four bouts of back surgery.
Asked if he could now catch and overhaul Nicklaus, McIlroy told www.pgatour.com: “I would certainly think so. It rejuvenates, it re-energises that narrative. That’s still another four. . .
“I guess the thing is as well, a lot of people were comparing it to Jack in ‘86 — everyone knew that was going to be Jack’s last major championship.
“Tiger could be competitive at Augusta for the next 10 years if his body holds up.”
That may be the big question for a player who McIlroy firmly believes had started to fear that his career was over when they had lunch around two years ago.
McIlroy said: “It was March 2017, just coming off the back of another surgery or whatever, and all he was thinking about was quality of life, watching his kids grow up, being able to play soccer in the back yard. . .
“His mind wasn’t even on golf, which sort of told me, ‘He’s thinking this could be it’, and from stories that I’ve heard, at the champions dinner at Augusta that year, he was saying the same things, maybe not playing competitive golf again.
“To think in two years what’s happened, it’s incredible. It’s a big deal to come back from what he has and I don’t think people quite appreciate what has gone into it.
“But it just shows he’s gritty, he’s determined — it’s always been one of his best qualities and it [Augusta] was awesome to see for everyone in golf, whether you’re a player, whether you’re in the media, it’s just great for our game in general.
“It was a great day.”
McIlroy’s comments came ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, a title he has won twice.
He will use the tournament as part of his preparation for the US Open at Pebble Beach in June, where he is determined to improve upon a “pathetic” record.
He told reporters: “I’ve been pathetic at the US Open, so I’ve changed that up, I’m going to make that my third week in a row. Three missed cuts in a row, it is pathetic. You could do that.
“I don’t view it as just ‘This big week’ or ‘This big week’, it’s a stretch of gold coming up and I’m excited about that.”
The Lowdown: Wells Fargo Championship
Purse: €7.05 million (€1.4m to the winner)
Where: Quail Hollow, Charlotte, North Carolina
The course: One of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour, Quail Hollow - a Tom Fazio redesign of 7,554 yards Par 71 - is playing host to the Wells Fargo championship for the 16th time in 17 years. The finishing stretch of holes - 16, 17 and 18 - is known as the “Green Mile” and has earned a reputation as one of the toughest runs for home on the tour. The 16th is a Par 4 dogleg of 506 yards, the 17th a Par 3 of 223 yards over water and the 18th a Par 4 of 494 yards that has a creek meandering the left side of the fairway.
The field: Just three of the current world’s top-10 are playing, among them Rory McIlroy - the world number four - who is the only multiple time Wells Fargo champion (winner in 2010 and 2015). McIlroy has finished outside the top-10 just twice in eight previous visits. Justin Rose, the world number two, is aiming to rebound from a missed cut at the Masters while Phil Mickelson is making a 16th career appearance in the tournament.
Quote-Unquote: “You have to respect a lot of pin placements, you have to keep it under the hole. I think you’re playing a more defensive style of golf at times” - Justin Rose.
Irish in the field: McIlroy is joined by Pádraig Harrington and Séamus Power. Power has finished tied-6th and tied-5th in his last two outings in transforming his season and could yet force his way into the field for the upcoming US PGA championship through the special money ranking list which commenced with The Players and finishes with the Wells Fargo. Power is in the first group off (noon Irish time) with Ollie Schniederjans and David Hearn; Harrington (1.10pm) is grouped with Will MacKenzie and Brandon Harkins, while McIlroy (5.50pm) is in a group with Sergio Garcia and Tony Finau.
Betting: Rory McIlroy is a red hot favourite at 6/1, with the trio of Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler next in the market at 11/1 . . . . Power is worth an each-way look at 150/1.
On TV: First round coverage on Sky Sports Golf (from 7.00pm, featured groups from noon)