Woods laughs off Rory's "last few holes" remark: "Rory right now is playing fantastically"

Woods laughs off Rory's "last few holes" remark: "Rory right now is playing fantastically"

The storm in a teacup that blew up on social media when Rory McIlroy said last week that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were "getting into the sort of last few holes of their career" was well and truly quelled by the 14-time major winner on Monday.

Speaking at a media day for his Hero World Challenge, which is moving to Isleworth from 4-7 December this year, Woods laughed off McIlroy's comments, which came at the end of a long answer in which he justified the absence of Woods (39 in December) and Mickelson (44) from the Tour Championship for the first time since 1992.


"I thought it was funny," Woods said.  "I mean, Phil has less holes to play than I do, though.  (Laughter.)  What is he, five years older than me or four?  Five.  Yeah, so yeah, it's a reality, you know?  We're all older.  I'm nearing my 20th season on Tour here coming up pretty soon.  I've been out here for a while, and Phil has been out here for a while.  Phil has made every single Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since, I think, what, '95.  Pretty remarkable. 

"But yeah, it's just part of the aging process.  When I first came out here on TOUR, I remember seeing some of these kids out here that‑‑ fellow players and their kids, and now I'm actually playing against their kids.  It's just how time goes on and time goes by.  As long as you're still part of that conversation, you cross generations in this game of golf.  For instance, I got a chance to play with, as you saw all in 2000, Jack Nicklaus in the PGA Championship. 

"Being able to cross generations like that, I remember Jack telling me at that PGA that he got a chance to play with Gene Sarazen in his last PGA.  It's not too often you get a chance to play with people who are legends of the game, obviously well past their prime, but they're still playing in the same event.  You don't see that in any other sport.  I think that's what makes golf so special, and that's also what makes it so enjoyable to play, is that you can play for such a long period of time and still be successful at it. "

Mickelson is now 11th  in the world behind Rickie Fowler while No 15 Woods, out injured until he returns for his World Challenge in December, has now been overtaken by No 13 Jordan Spieth and No 14 Billy Horschel.

With McIlroy the clear world No 1, it's clear that a changing of the guard has begun, though Woods hopes to get back and close the gap on the Ulsterman, who he says is playing "fantastically."

Asked if having fellow Nike man McIlroy around "and seeing the success he had this year" pushed him even more, Woods admitted that a new generation had arrived.

He said: "Yeah, well, it's a different generation.  You know, the guys that I played against most of my career was Phil, Vijay, Ernie, Goose, Paddy [Harrington]. Those are probably the core guys that I played with or played against for the last 15, almost 20 years now.  This is the next crop coming up, Rory being one, probably Jordan Spieth, Rickie.  That's the next wave of guys that are coming up. 

"It's fun to be a part of.  I've fallen pretty far in the World Rankings now, but at one point we were both 1 and 2 in the world, and very similar to what it was in the late '90s and early 2000s when Duval and I were both 1 and 2, and we both represented Nike. 

"To have the Nike presence out there like that I think is fantastic.  I just hope it'll be me soon that's out there playing that well, but Rory right now is playing fantastically, and I'm sure he's going to continue to get better."

As for his recovery from back surgery and what he's been up to , he said: "Well, golf‑wise, nothing.  I haven't swung a golf club yet.  I've just been shadow swinging without a club, but I've been busting my butt in the gym pretty hard.  I've got my strength back, which is nice.  Now the next goal is to get my explosiveness and my fast twitch going, and that's the next phase of my training."

Having let Sean Foley go recently, Woods said he had no plans to hire a new coach.

"Am I looking for a new coach?  As of right now, no, I'm not.  Right now I'm just trying to get physically better, stronger, faster, more explosive. 

"As far as knowing more than my coaches, I would have to say on the technical side, I probably don't know as much as some of them.  But from a feel standpoint, which is something that I think is innate, because of what we're able to do at such an elite level, yeah, I think I know a lot more than they do because they've never played down the stretch on the back nine of a major championship, never won majors, never felt that, what do the hands feel, what does the body feel, the things that we as players at this level who have won enough times understand, what it feels like. 

"I think that's something‑‑ you have to understand your practice sessions, you've got to be able to understand your practice sessions, those practice sessions, will they work on the back nine on a Sunday of a major, either yes or no, and I think that's one thing I've always tried to tell all my coaches, will it work or not work, and if it's not going to work, then we're not going down that road.

"I'm in no hurry to look for one right now.  As I said, I'm just focused on what I'm doing."