Rory McIlroy has hit back at the critics who say he loves taking potshots at Tiger Woods.
The 21-year old Ulsterman caused a stir in the US with a candid, first person piece in Sports Illustrated in which he compares the current Tiger to “an ordinary golfer” and doubts that the fallen former world No 1 will ever dominate the game to the same extent again.
Using Twitter to make his feelings known, McIlroy said: “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!!!”
McIlroy’s 1000-word piece appeared under his by-line, which was something that surprised him as he believed he was simply giving another interview.
Speaking ahead of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic, where he will partner defending champion Camilo Villegas and Accenture Match Play champion Luke Donald in the first round, McIlroy said: “I always try to give honest answers to questions.”
While McIlroy’s views on Woods are shared by many, his insistence that the long game is more important than the short game does not have as many adherents.
Speaking in Tucson last week, McIlroy said: “The long game puts you in position to have putts to win tournaments. Guys say you have to have short game to win tournaments and it is not the case. Not at all.”
However, he has an important ally in “Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus, who turns out to be the man who convinced McIlroy about the short game’s secondary role when they had lunch together 12 months ago.
Speaking before the Honda Classic pro-am, Nicklaus said: “I agree with Rory. In fact, it was me who told him so in the first place, when we had lunch last year.
“I always thought the long game was more important. I’ve always felt that way. I never worried much about my short game and I didn’t practice it.
“I told Rory that I never practiced my short game because I felt like if I can hit 15 greens a round and hit a couple of par fives in two and if I can make all my putts inside 10 feet, who cares where I chip it.
“And I didn’t enjoy practicing that part of the game, I enjoyed the other part. But that was just me.”
Like McIlroy, Nicklaus is constantly asked about Woods and while he’s surprised that the 14-time major winner is still struggling to rediscover his game, he still believes that the 35-year old Californian will break his record of 18 major wins.
“I’m surprised that he has not bounced back by now,” Nicklaus said. “He’s got such a great work ethic. He’s so determined to what he wants to do. I’m very surprised that he has not popped back. I still think he’ll break my record.
“But obviously we have not played any majors yet this year. We’ll see. You probably can ask me that same question at the end of this year and we’ll see what the answer is, and it might - it will probably define a lot of what will be the answer.”