Rory McIlroy says he would love to see Tiger Woods playing in next week’s Masters, even though that would make it tougher for him to complete a career Grand Slam.
“It would be awesome for him to be there,” McIlroy said Wednesday.
The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland is among those playing this week’s US PGA Texas Open at TPC San Antonio as a final tuneup for the year’s first major tournament at Augusta National.
Woods, who suffered severe right leg injuries in a February 2021 car crash, played an 18-hole practice round at Augusta National on Tuesday, testing his fitness to compete for his sixth Masters crown.
Woods has not played since the 2020 Masters, moved to November due to Covid-19. He has spent 13 months rehabilitating from the crash, saying he was fortunate to still be alive and not to have had his leg amputated, but given no timetable for when he might return.
McIlroy, who needs only a Masters green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, would love that comeback to be next week in the Georgia pines.
“I think for golf and for the Masters tournament and for everyone, to have Tiger there would be phenomenal,” McIlroy said.
“It just adds to the event. Anything Tiger Woods does in the game of golf is heightened whenever he’s there,” he added.
“He was there yesterday and he’s trying to see what he can do. Obviously no one knows but him if he can make it around and if he believes he can compete.”
Woods, 46, already completed one of the greatest comeback stories in sport by winning the 2019 Masters for his 15th career major title and first since the 2008 US Open.
After multiple back surgeries, Woods feared he might never recover for a normal life, but a microdiscectomy enabled him to return to competition strong enough to win a major and match Sam Snead for the all-time US PGA win record with 82 career titles.
Asked if anything Woods does can surprise him, McIlroy replied, “Yeah, everything… from basically March of 2017 fast forward two years and he wins the Masters and where he was with his body and what he had to do to get back to being somewhat healthy.
“The sheer will and perseverance, it’s incredible. If he comes back from this again, it’s just, he likes to prove people wrong. He likes to prove himself wrong, I think.”
McIlroy, whose best Masters showing was fourth in 2015, will welcome Woods back whenever he does return.
“Regardless of when he does come back, whether it’s next week or a few weeks, few months down the line, he’s a wonderful addition to the game,” McIlroy said. “Golf is better when he’s playing and when he’s playing well.”
Wanting to ‘mix it up’
McIlroy, a 2013 runner-up in his only prior Texas Open start, won his 20th US PGA title last October at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas.
He said undulations on the San Antonio greens can help prepare players for the unique challenge offered at Augusta National
“I just wanted to mix it up and I still wanted to feel like I was sharp going into Augusta,” McIlroy said. “It’s a really good guide to see where my game is, especially if you’re having to hit shots under pressure to try to win.”
McIlroy, who played a couple of practice rounds this week at Augusta National, wasn’t unhappy to change his routine in the days before the Masters.
“I’d just be playing at home and practicing,” he said. “One of the great things about playing the week before is you’re staying busy. Sometimes being idle at home you can overthink things, so to keep yourself busy and keep your mind on something else is a good thing.”