Woods backs McIlroy for Grand Slam: “It’s just a matter of time”

John Craven

Tiger Woods - Masters media

Tiger Woods is in no doubt that his great friend Rory McIlroy will one day join him in golf’s exclusive Grand Slam club – he’s just not sure when.

Woods was speaking from his perch at Augusta National where he addressed the media ahead of his 25th appearance at the Masters.

The 15-time Major winner completed his career Grand Slam when winning The Open in 2000, while a year later, with victory at the Masters, he completed his famous ‘Tiger Slam’, holding all four men’s Majors at the same time in perhaps his crowning feat.


Now Woods is backing McIlroy to join him in the annals of golf history as the Northern Irishman takes his ninth stab at capturing an elusive Green Jacket.

“He will. It’s just a matter of time,” Woods says, safe in the knowledge that he has five in the wardrobe back home. “Rory has the talent. He has the game. He has all the tools to win here. It’s just a matter of time.

“A lot of things have to happen to win at this golf course. A lot of things have to go right. I think Rory has shown over the years he’s learned how to play this golf course, and you just have to understand how to play it.

“He’s been there. Last year he made a great run, put himself there. But I think that it’s just a matter of time, whether it’s this year or next or whenever it comes, he will get it done, and he will have a career Grand Slam. It’s just what year it will be; it will definitely happen.”

As for Woods’ own ambitions this week, the script doesn’t seem that different to the one of 12 months ago when Woods surprised many by making the halfway cut practically on one leg. Although he believes he’s playing better golf than 12 months ago, sadly walking remains the issue, and with a dreary forecast for the weekend, Woods wasn’t about to hype up his victory chances.

“My mobility is not where I would like it, but as I sit here, I’ve said to you guys before, I’m very lucky to have this leg; it’s mine,” Woods said. “Yes, it had been altered and there’s some hardware in there, but it’s still mine. It has been tough and will always be tough. The ability and endurance of what my leg will do going forward will never be the same. I understand that.

“That’s why I can’t prepare and play as many tournaments as I like, but that’s my future, and that’s okay. I’m okay with that.”

“I think my game is better than it was last year at this particular time. I think my endurance is better. But it aches a little bit more than it did last year just because at that particular time when I came back, I really had not pushed it that often. And I had a little window in which I did push it and was able to come back.

“Fast-forwarding, I didn’t really play a whole lot afterwards. Took a little bit to recover from the event.

“I played in February at L.A. and then took a little time off before getting ready for this. You know, I just have to be cognisant of how much I can push it. Like Rory was saying, I can hit a lot of shots but the difficulty for me is going to be the walking going forward. It is what it is. I wish it could be easier. I’ve got three more years, where I get the little buggy and be out there with Fred [Couples] (laughter) but until then, no buggy!”

What Woods lacks in physical wellbeing, he more than makes up for in course knowledge, however, should the cool temperatures somehow miss Augusta, and the golfing gods gift us a firm and fast week, you can be sure Woods will be telling himself that he still has the game to get the job done – at this place of all places.

“I know the golf course. So I’ve been able to recreate a lot of the chip shots at home in my backyard or I’m at Medalist hitting balls off the side of lies, trying to simulate shots and rehearsing again and again each and every flag location, each and every shot I would possibly hit,” he says.

“I’ve gone through so many different scenarios in my head. You know I don’t sleep very well, so going through it and rummaging through the data bank and how to hit shots from each and every place and rehearsing it; that’s the only way that I can compete here. I don’t have the physical tournaments under my belt. I haven’t played that much, no. But if there’s any one golf course that I can come back, like I did last year, it’s here, just because I know the golf course.

“Bernhard is still able to compete here, Fred is still able to compete here. They’re older guys who understand how to play this particular golf course. It helps. And hopefully it will help me this week.”

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