McIlroy: Tiger ‘closer than people think’

Rory McIlroy was able to get a good look at Tiger Woods' comeback at the Farmers Insurance Open last week, and liked what he saw.

The Northern Irishman is stilll recovering from a stress fracture in his rib, and so was able to wake up in the early hours of the morning last Friday to catch Tiger's opening round on TV.

“I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll stay up and watch a few holes,’ ” McIlroy said. “So I actually stayed up and watched most of it through the night. … It was Tiger’s first week back in a while and I was sort of intrigued to see how it was, just like everyone else, so I got up in the middle of the night to watch that.”

Woods wasn't able to post great numbers and missed the cut, but McIlroy saw some encouraging signs and reckons a few slight adjustments could bring much more success.

“If you look at his backswing, where he’s taking the club away, where he’s putting the club at the top of the swing, it’s really good,” McIlroy said. “It’s so on plane. And if he can just get his lower body to work a little bit better through the ball, he’s right there. He’s so close. … He’s closer than people think, I can assure you that.”

McIlroy is confident Woods will perform much better in Dubai this week, and was quick to defend Woods' legacy when questioned about it.

“He’s won 14 majors, he’s won (79) times on the PGA Tour, he’s won over 100 times worldwide. That is not a failure,” McIlroy said. “But unfortunately, people are going to see his career as a failure because he didn’t achieve what he set out to achieve, and that’s ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous.

“He played the best golf of anyone in the world, ever, for like a 10-year stretch. It was golf that no one had seen before. It brought so many people to the sport, and it ignited a generation of golfers that you see now coming through … so many guys that were just inspired by what he did on the golf course. He transcended the game of golf, and he is nothing but a success and a credit to the game of golf.

“I would love if he would just give it one last run … because I’d love to compete against him down the stretch of a major.”