Tiger Woods will go down as golf’s greatest and most resilient player, according to four-time major champion Rory McIlroy.
In his first tournament since undergoing knee surgery, Woods matched Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins when he triumphed at the Zozo Championship in Japan last month.
Woods’ victory followed on from his remarkable success at the Masters earlier in 2019, which capped a phenomenal comeback following the former world number one’s fall from grace and persistent back problems.
McIlroy tasted success of his own over the weekend, edging out Xander Schauffele in a play-off to win the WGC-HSBC Champions, with the dramatic triumph making him the first European to win three World Golf Championship titles.
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Asked to comment on Woods’ comeback, McIlroy said: “It’s incredible, to see first-hand what he did at the Tour Championship last year, what he did that final day to then him progressing to win the Masters and then winning in Japan.
“He does things that people just can’t understand and people will never understand the state his body was in or where he was mentally.
“To fight his way back, he’s going to go down as the greatest that ever played I think, but also the most resilient.
“We can talk about Ben Hogan and the car crash, but what Tiger has also been through, the injuries and everything else he’s been through in his life, to come back and play at this high level is incredible.
“If you compare Tiger to everyone else who has played in their mid-40s then you’d say he’d start to slow down.
“He has slowed down, he got to 71 [PGA Tour] wins by the age of 33 [and] it’s taken him 10 years to get to 82. There’s obviously a lot that’s gone on in-between with injuries and taking breaks.
“He’s not going to win at the rate that he used to win but I can still see him pick off one or two wins per year, I think that’s pretty realistic.”
FedExCup champion McIlroy has won four tournaments in 2019, but the Northern Irishman is hopeful he can soon go head-to-head with Woods for a title.
“It’s what I dreamed of growing up,” the world number two added. “I had putts to win The Open or win the Masters and to beat Tiger Woods.
“Now it’s a real possibility that could happen which is really cool.”
McIlroy was talking at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where HSBC invited five CGA Junior golfers from across China to participate in the annual launch event. Since 2006, HSBC have helped to put golf clubs in well over 100,000 children through their junior golf tournaments, training camps and school initiatives.