McIlroy as Curious About Tiger as Everyone Else
By Conor Nagle under WGC

McIlroy: won't bite his tongue

Stephanie may already have you up to speed with the BIG NEWS from Rory McIlroy’s pre-tournament press conference, but the US Open champion had more on his mind this afternoon than scheduling.

For a start, it seems that he’s nearly every bit as excited as the media when it comes to Tiger’s return to competition. How’s the knee? How’s the game? We’re not the only ones thinking ourselves in circles when it comes to the re-emergence of a (physically) fit Tiger Woods.

“Yeah, obviously I’m a player, but I’m a fan of golf and of sports [wait, is he implying that golf isn’t a sport?], and it’s a very compelling — you sort of — everyone wants to know what he’s going to do if he comes back, how is he going to play, how is his knee, people want to know. It’ll be interesting.

“I think the draw has worked out was worked out really well for him, playing with Clarkie the first two days. He’ll feel very comfortable in that environment. Darren is a very good friend of his. Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how he does come back.”

How does Rory expect Tiger to play?

I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know. The last tournament he played, he had to pull out after nine holes, so I think just to see how his knee holds up over 72 holes. And if he can do that, then I think the week has been — no one expects him to come out and play well. I’m sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete, but given the length of layoff and considering that he’s only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete.

But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish in the top 20 I think would be a really good effort.

[Ed. note from Stephanie: I love that Rory really does just speak his mind. It’s wonderful. But I digress — I think it’s a stretch to say that no one expects him to play well. Maybe a better way to phrase it would be no one expects him to win, but no one would be that surprised, either. I spoke to a few who were part of his practice round group today and apparently Tiger was “pounding it, striping it, it all looks good.”]

As if the relentless speculation about the health of Tiger Woods hadn’t already tipped him off, McIlroy was reminded that he wasn’t in Europe anymore. How did he feel about returning to the United States?

“Yeah, I’m very excited about these two weeks, definitely. It’s great to be back here and feel the reception I got out there today, even just in the practice round was incredible.”

Good stuff. And that cyber-spat with Jay Townsend — that was nothing, right?

“…the whole Twitter thing was unfortunate. Again, [I] just off the golf course after making a double bogey, going through, having lunch, going through Twitter, seeing a couple of comments, and I just responded to them. That’s the world that we live in these days; everything is instant and everything is in the public domain. Yeah, I’ll maybe think about things a little more carefully next time I do something like that.

“It won’t stop me from Tweeting or speaking my mind.”

Music to the ears of the assembled journalists, no doubt, particularly those hardy veterans of Tuesday’s communications seminar with Tiger Woods. [Ed. note from Stephanie again: Yes, indeed it was pure harmony, and not just for the hardy veterans, the bright-eyed rookies (or am I considered a sophomore now?), too.]

The youngster tees off tomorrow in the company of defending champ Hunter Mahan.

Conor Nagle