While McIlroy named Bubba Watson when asked who the favorite is this week, he isn’t dismissing Woods.
“I don't think you should ever underestimate him,” McIlroy said. “He's done things on the golf course that are pretty special. But, you know, just as a golf fan in general, I'm sort of interested to see how he does when he comes back.
“I had a good chat with him on the putting green today. He feels good. He's been working hard. He's got the motivation to keep at it, and just like everyone else, I'll be looking for his score and seeing what he's doing.”
With Woods coming back from back surgery and struggles with his short game, McIlroy was asked if he was concerned about Woods’ future.
“Not really,” McIlroy said. “It's hard to be concerned for someone that's already won 14 [majors] and 80 PGA Tour events and earned over a billion dollars in his career. I think he's done OK.
“It would have been a bad thing for the sport if he had not been able to come back. So, it's great that he's making his first start back here. And, hopefully, this is the start of a period where he can play continuously and have a good run at it, because, you know, he's 39, turning 40 this year. He's got maybe a few years left where he can play at the top level, and he's going to give it his all.”