Rory McIlroy has not been a pro long enough to have experienced Tiger Woods at his absolute best. So he doesn’t understand any clamoring by players about Woods’ return this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
In particular, McIlroy was asked to reflect on a remark made by defending champion Hunter Mahan in which he termed the return of Woods as “scary.”
For the record, Mahan did not mean Woods was intimidating. Rather, he said, “Because there’s so much doubt now. We always used to doubt him and he’d always prove us wrong. But this is serious doubt because we have no idea how healthy he is. Who knows? I don’t know.”)
'Someone’s that competing in a tournament shouldn’t think that the return of another player should be scary,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy points to Woods’ inconsistency over the past two years as the rationale for treating Tiger’s return with muted expectations.
'I wouldn’t use the word scary. It’d be maybe a little intimidating if you knew for sure if [Woods] was going to play the way he did in 2000, 2001, but no one knows that,” he said.
McIlroy’s expectation for Woods is not particularly high considering Woods’ seven wins in 11 starts at Firestone, saying, “I think top-20 will be a great effort.”
“Just to see how his knee holds up over 72 holes. If he can do that. No one expects him to come out and play well,” McIlroy said. “I’m sure he expects himself to come out and compete. But given how long he has been out, it would be incredible for him to be able to come out for 72 holes and compete.”
The Ulsterman said Woods had a favorable “draw” with the Tour opting to put Woods with Open champion and friend Darren Clarke.
McIlroy said, “I think the draw has worked out very well for [Woods], playing with Clarkie for the first few days. He’ll be comfortable.”