Never mind Jack, Stenson sees Woods' 14 majors as McIlroy's big challenge
Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. Picture Fran Caffrey,

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. Picture Fran Caffrey,

Henrik Stenson regards Tiger Woods as the greatest player of all time. But with 17 worldwide wins, including four majors, in his seven years as a professional, the Swede is as curious as the rest of us to see if Rory McIlroy can overhaul Woods' haul 14 majors and challenge Jack Nicklaus' 18.

“In my book, Tiger is the greatest player,” Stenson said in Dubai on Wednesday. “I've played a lot with him over the years and of course, I never played with Jack and Gary and Arnold, but just in the way that Tiger has won some of his tournaments, I rate that possibly even higher than some of the others, just some of the shots he's hit and putts he's made under certain circumstances. 

“In my mind, he's the best player, and of course you want him to be part of the tournament.  You always take extra credit when you win a tournament that he's part of the field.”

How does Rory compare? 

“Very good question,” Stenson said. “I think he's got pretty much the same potential.  I think we all see that; that he could be that dominant force in the next five to ten years that Tiger was.  I think he's got such a big game, and he's got every opportunity to be it. 

“Of course, Tiger is proving himself more than Rory has at this stage, but he's got every chance and it's going to be an exciting time for golf fans and everyone that follows the game to see if he's going to fulfil that potential to the fullest. We know he's a tough player to beat when he's playing well, for sure. 

“If he keeps on playing as well as he's done, then of course he's got that chance (to dominate in Tigeresque fashion).  But there's a lot of good players out there.  I'm not done yet, so I'm going to try and stop him of course for the next couple of years. 

“I'm sure some of the other guys, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and a few of the other guys that have come up in the last couple of years, they are going to try and stop him and keep on developing being better players.  Got some guys coming up in Europe, as well.

“I think every sport develops and it's going to be no different for us.  It just going to be tougher and tougher, and if Rory can be as near dominant as Tiger was for such a long time with the competition being harder and harder, that's going to be very impressive and it will be fun to watch.”

Can he beat Woods’ current haul of 14 majors or possible challenge Nicklaus’ 18? Stenson doesn’t see why not.

“I mean, it will be tough,” he said.  “It will tough to get to 14 Majors, but he could do it.  It would be even tougher to get to 18.  

“I guess it depends on how quickly  the next couple years will be crucial for the number.  If he can win two a year for the next two or three years, then all of the sudden you are making some good progress. 

“But I'm sure in one way that if he would say, if Rory wins one major a year for the next ten years, then he would be close.  But it would take some golfing to do it. You can't just sit here and analyse it.  You need to go out here and actually do it.”