Rory McIlroy believes that Tiger Woods will “stun the world – again” this year after beginning his resurrection in London. McIlroy played with Woods in November and was amazed by the 14-time major winner’s display at the Bear’s Club, Jack Nicklaus’s Florida course near the players’ homes.
At that stage, Woods had not played competitively since February when he pulled out of the Dubai Desert Classic. The 42-year-old then underwent a spinal fusion, a radical operation which led to predictions that his career was over.
However, Woods returned at the Hero World Challenge two months ago, where he commendably finished in a tie for ninth in an 18-man field. McIlroy was not surprised by that, after what he had witnessed a few weeks beforehand when Woods had invited him for 18 holes.
“I was on my way there worrying thinking, ‘what will I see?’, but it was incredible,” McIlroy told Telegraph Sport. “My dad [Gerry] also played with us and we both couldn’t believe it. I remember mouthing to Dad, ‘WTF?’. And on the drive home afterwards, we said: ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ Tiger was that good; playing every shot, not having to hold back.
“Tiger told me how he’d fixed it and how it was a mini-miracle, considering how bad it had been. He travelled to London to see the ultimate consultant on these things, who told him the only guy who could fix this was in Texas. Tiger went through the procedure and now he’s back.”
Like everyone McIlroy looked on in admiration as Woods relaunched his career in the Bahamas. “This is a different Tiger. He could stun the world – again,” said McIlroy with a rueful grin, mindful of losing the world No 1 tag to him in 2013 when Woods won five tournaments. But McIlroy seems more impressed this time around.
“When he came back in 2013, all he did was hit a big cut and was getting himself around with his chipping and putting,” McIlroy said. “And, yeah, that is incredible in itself. But he’s got everything again now. You can talk about Jordan [Spieth] and JT [Justin Thomas] and all of them not seeing Tiger in his pomp, but I tell you what, I’ve never really seen Tiger at that level. He could be the story of the year. I hope he isn’t, I hope I am. But then if Tiger wins just one then he will be the story anyway.”