Rory McIlroy didn’t play in the Hero World Challenge because he was in Dublin, Ireland at the Excellence in Sport Awards to collect the Sports Person of the Year award. That didn’t stop McIlroy from watching Tiger Woods make his return to the PGA Tour.
While McIlroy wasn’t able to watch all of the tournament, he was able to watch some of the coverage and had some good things to say about Woods’s first performance back.
Via Irish Golf Desk:
“I think he exceeded everyone’s expectations, not sure if he exceeded his own, but he definitely made some great swings. He looked comfortable, he looked happy which I thought was the most interesting thing. He looked happy to be out there, which we probably haven’t seen in a while.”
“Anytime we saw him on a golf course in the last couple of years he had the furrowed brow and he has been so concentrated. But he looked happy so obviously that tells you he has been away and he has come back out happy and he is in a better place.”
“I thought he is definitely swinging it much better now that he was when he went away. His rhythm was great, looks really smooth, he looks really comfortable, looks like he is not going after it as hard. It was good.”
The four-time major champion continued saying Woods “looks comfortable,” and that he definitely thinks Woods could win another major championship.
“Why not? You don’t hit 24 birdies in a week and not show good signs. I know it is different and it is not the same as other tournaments but there is definitely good reason for everyone to be excited.”
McIlroy wasn’t the only European golfer to weigh in on Tiger, 2008 PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington said he never thought Tiger would play again.
“I didn’t think he’d ever play again or had no idea. It’s exceptionally good for golf that he’s back. It’s incredibly big for the game. I think it should be a big lift to him. There were a lot of good signs. There wouldn’t be very many players in the world who wouldn’t take where he is at the moment going into next year.”
“The great thing for Tiger is that he knows, if he can get himself into contention, he has got the ability to win and scare other players and do everything that is necessary. He has to have a game good enough to do that and he showed last week that that game was good enough. If it was his week, he can win.”
“Clearly times have changed and he is 40 years of age and not the guy he was when he was 30 years of age. I don’t necessarily see him winning with his B game but he can certainly win with the game that showed up last week.”
Unlike McIlroy though, Harrington isn’t sure Woods will ever win another major.
“Winning majors isn’t really about how he swings it, it is about feeling the pressure under the gun and if he is able to do that then he has a chance. I feel in the past when he was winning majors there was times when obviously he made it look very easy but the level of competition he has now and the depth and the longevity are different.”
“Dustin is just in his 30s, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and myself, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, we are early to mid to late 20s. There is a lot of young guys there too which is great, if is he going to keep winning majors, this is who he has to beat.”
There are a lot of positives to take away from Woods’s first tournament. He led the field in birdies with 24, but he also finished with six double-bogeys which put him dead last at 17th in that category. As both McIlroy and Harrington said, his swing looked great and he looked happy.
Earlier this year I wrote that Tiger may never win another major tournament because the field is just too good, but I do believe that he can win another tournament.
Golf is a fickle game, and completely ruling out a major win would be foolish. If anything, just look at what Tom Watson did in 2009 at the Open Championship at the age of 59. Watson was 59 at the time and lost in a playoff with Stewart Cink.