McIlroy separates Woods myth from the man

Rory McIlroy was an amateur when he watched Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els play an exhibition in Dubai in 2006. Less than four years later, only Woods is ranked ahead of him.Elite warriors are revered for their talent and their trophies, which is why Rory McIlroy will always worship Tiger Woods.

Some day, McIlroy may be asked to fill Tiger's shoes. Right now he just wants him back in the game so they can finally go toe to toe.

But golf’s hottest prospect won’t be making any jokes about cars, hedges or bad driving if he eventually gets to take on the World No 1 in the match all golf fans want to see.

Fallen idol Woods saw his world implode after he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his Orlando mansion several weeks ago and hasn't been seen in public since.

But McIlroy joked: “I put my Audi RS into a hedge on New Year’s Day … in my driveway.

“I was crawling down the driveway in the snow and there’s a sharp left hand turn and I braked to turn into it and it just slid.

“As it did, before I hit the hedge, I thought, ‘I know where this is going’ … into the neighbour’s cabbage patch.”

Then McIlroy quipped: “And there was nobody chasing me!”

Woods has been hammered worldwide for cheating on his wife.

But while McIlroy believes the world No 1 will have lost a little bit of his aura, he’s expecting Tiger to be as mentally tough as ever when he decides it's time to compete again.

Expecting some early Woods nerves, McIlroy said: “I’ve always wanted to play against him. I suppose it could make it a little easier to play against him when he comes back because at least he’s a little more fragile than he used to be. He’s not as unassailable."

But while he's idolised Woods since he was a kid, McIlroy knows better than anyone that he's just another normal person who happens to be good at golf.

McIlroy said: “I always viewed Tiger as a great golfer. Whenever I was watching him on TV, I didn’t care what he was like as a person – he was just an awesome golfer.

“He’s still a great golfer in everyone’s eyes. He’s just run into a bit of difficulty.”

Still a big fan, McIlroy added: “Even I was disappointed when I heard what happened. Everyone though ‘aw no’. Everyone was shocked because he was obviously doing it for a while.

“I can relate to him in some way that you become so successful like that, you get in to something like that, the more successful you get, you almost feel as if you are invincible in a way.”

Asked if there was a lesson to be learned, McIlroy said: “My dad always told me whenever I was growing up there’s always someone watching – we were talking about bad temper, throwing clubs and all that stuff.

"There’ll be a lot of speculation about when he’s coming back, if he’s coming back, whatever. It’s fine if he’s away for three months, six months. But the sooner he comes back the better. Hopefully, it will end any of these questions."