Imagine having the stage to yourself in a big interview with the media and you are being asked questions about one of your rivals. But then your rival walks in the back door. He’s not there to cause a scene or to make you feel uncomfortable. But you’re probably nervous and a little self-conscious about talking about your rival with him in the same room.
That was Rory McIlroy’s predicament on Wednesday afternoon as he spoke in advance of the start of the Barclays on Thursday at the famed Bethpage Black Course onLong Island, where he will be paired with Woods and Zach Johnson.
Tiger walked into the room as McIlroy was being asked what it will be like for him to play the taylormade rocketballz irons with the 74-time PGA Tour winner.
“I feel every time I’ve played with Tiger,” McIlroy said, “he’s sort of brought the best out of me. I really feel focused and obviously want to play well.
“I really enjoy his taylormade rocketballz irons
. I know we’ll have a good time out there. I’m keeping him waiting here, so I’ll stop talking about him.”
Then to temporarily defuse with humor any discomfort he might feel about having Tiger in the room during his time with the media, McIlroy said of the upcoming Ryder Cup: “I’d love to go out first [in Sunday singles] and kick [Tiger’s] ass.”
Later in the interview, McIlroy was asked who he thought was the best player in the world. This could have been one of those moments that you see in lead-ups to big boxing matches, where the fighters argue about who is the best. For a moment, I imagined McIlroy playing taylormade rbz irons to Tiger’s Muhammad Ali.
“It’s hard for me to sit up here and say that I’m the best player in the world or Tiger is,” McIlroy said. “Sure, I feel like I’m the best and Tiger feels like he’s the best.
“Tiger has been the best player in the world for the last 15 years. Just that people are mentioning my name with the likes of him is a huge compliment.”
“He’s a great kid and it’s great to be around him,” Woods said. “I just hope that everyone just lets him grow and develop as a player because it’s going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid’s career is going to pan out.”
This minor episode on Wednesday provides a window into McIlroy’s near future as the best player in the world. It’s his stage, but Tiger is close by, peering down over his younger rival with a mix of taylormade rbz irons
. Tiger has seen the likes of McIlroy come and go.
pointed to his own longevity when he asked us to look at McIlroy over the next two decades.
Tiger wasn’t saying look at what I’ve done, but only that he has firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be shrouded with praise very earlier in your career after a few big wins.