21-year-old Rory McIlroy doesn’t mince words, which is partly why we (at least I) think he’s great. While most players curb their opinions publicly when it comes to assessing Tiger Woods, Rory doesn’t hold back. His candor caused a stir last fall when he said he’d “love to face [Tiger]” and fancied his chances against him “unless his game rapidly improved.” In the debut issue of SI Golf Plus’ PGA Tour Confidential this week, McIlroy shared his latest opinions on Tiger:
I wasn’t playing against Tiger Woods when he had that aura. I was watching on TV! I remember getting nervous when I first met him. I was 15. There was a presence about him. There still is to some extent, but when you’re on the golf course you simply block it out. But Tiger is not playing as well as he was even a couple of years ago, never mind going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he was at his best. I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did. He never seemed like he would make a mistake.
It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer. People expect more of him because of what he has achieved. As much as I would love to have the success that Tiger has had on the golf course, I wouldn’t want to live his life.
I mean, Tiger has been “ordinary” by Tiger’s standards. Well, Lee Westwood, friend and mentor to the young McIlroy, disagreed with McIlroy’s comments.
“That’s the answer a 21-year-old will give, isn’t it?” Westwood said with a slight smile during his press conference on Tuesday morning at the Honda Classic. “A 37-year-old is a little wiser…
Westwood, who suffered his own slump for a few years post-2000, likened Tiger’s game to the expression, “Class is permanent, form is fickle. Tiger is the classiest player I’ve ever played with and I’d be wise enough to know not to write him off.”
He added, “I’ll have to have a word with Rory later.”
This afternoon McIlroy, whom may have had that chat with Westwood, defended his comments on Twitter, writing:
Hate that the media thinks I’m taking jabs at tiger all the time! Best that’s ever lived, EVER! Just not playing his best at the minute. If he plays his best we’re all screwed! LOL hard to dodge the tiger questions when u get 10 every interview you do!!!
Well, I, for one am not criticizing Rory, nor do I think he’s taking jabs at Tiger. He’s actually speaking the truth and it’s remarkably refreshing. I know it’s a novel concept, but he’s really just giving his opinion. Plus, if you read his words carefully, he didn’t make any definite statements or harsh digs.
Give the kid a break. After all, he’s only 21 — and if you’ve ever seen or been to one of his press conferences, he’s incredibly well-spoken for his age. What I’d most hate to happen is for Rory to stop being candid and give the same ol’ boring quotes that just about everyone else does.
Keep speaking your mind, Rory. Please.