The Masters: 'Any time Tiger Woods is involved, it's a wonderful thing' – McIlroy

By Sports Desk April 05, 2022

Rory McIlroy described Tiger Woods' return at The Masters as a "wonderful thing" after the 15-time major winner confirmed his planned participation at Augusta.

Woods is set to make a sensational bid for a sixth green jacket this week, playing competitively for the first time since failing to defend his 2019 Masters title in November 2020.

The 46-year-old suffered serious leg and foot injuries in a car crash in February 2021. He was unable to walk unaided for several months.

However, after practicing at Augusta this week, Woods said on Tuesday: "As of right now I feel like I'm going to play."

Asked if he thought he could win the Masters, Woods - who has been grouped with Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen - replied: "I do."

McIlroy is looking to complete a career Grand Slam by finally ending his wait for a first Masters title, but he unsurprisingly faced questions on Woods' return.

"Tiger has been wonderful for us all in this room. He creates attention on the game of golf that no one else can," McIlroy replied when asked if he would be surprised if Woods was still in contention on Sunday. 

"That's great for his peers. It's great for the media. It's great for this golf club. It's great for everyone. So, any time Tiger Woods is involved, it's a wonderful thing.

"I think in terms of the competitive nature of it, if he's in the field or not, I don't think it really changes much. You're trying to focus on yourself, and he can't stop you shooting a 67 if you play well. It's not like any other sport. So, I don't think that changes much.

"But would I be -- I wouldn't be surprised. I've spent a little bit of time with him at home, and the golf is there. He's hitting it well. He's chipping well. He's sharp. It's just the physical demand of getting around 72 holes here this week. That's probably the question mark. But the golf game is there. So, would I be surprised? No, I'm not surprised at anything he does anymore."

On whether the hype around Woods makes it easier to fly under the radar, McIlroy replied: "I mean, I try to shield myself from as much news as possible, especially this week. So not really, depending on whether you're the centre of attention or not.

"I think it does make it nice with the practice rounds. We were on the ninth green when Tiger and J.T. [Justin Thomas] and Freddie [Fred Couples] teed off yesterday [Monday], and it was a mass exodus from the ninth green to the first tee, and then the back nine was lovely and quiet.

"That's a nice way to get through the first week and sort of go about your preparation, I guess, unhindered."

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    Scottie Scheffler is unsure whether his arrest on Friday was a factor after a disappointing Saturday led to him finishing tied for eighth at a "hectic" PGA Championship.

    On Friday, world number one Scheffler was arrested outside Valhalla Golf Club ahead of his second round.

    It subsequently emerged that he faces charges of second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving, and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic.

    Scheffler shot a five-under 66 in the delayed second round, one stroke better than his first round, but a two-over 73 on Saturday all but ended his hopes of back-to-back major wins.

    Xander Schauffele ultimately claimed his first major title at 21 under, eight shots ahead of Scheffler.

    Speaking after Sunday's final round, in which a run of seven birdies in 10 holes helped him card a 65, Scheffler said he was proud of the way he finished the event. 

    "I think 'hectic' would probably be a good description," Scheffler said. "I'm fairly tired, definitely a lot more tired than I have been finishing some other tournaments.

    "I'm proud of today how we went out there and fought. I got off to a slow start and I was able to get some momentum and post a good round.

    "Yesterday obviously was quite frustrating and a bit of a different day, but overall proud of how I fought this week. Was fortunate to be out here competing, doing what I love."

    Asked whether his arrest had an impact on his performance, Scheffler said: "It's hard to tell. I think I would attribute it mostly to a bad day. 

    "I think when you come out here to compete, you're doing what you can throughout the course of the round to post a score and I wasn't able to get that done yesterday.

    "Did I feel like myself? Absolutely not. Was my warm-up the way it usually is and the distractions the way they normally are? Absolutely not. 

    "I got arrested Friday morning and I showed up here and played a good round of golf. So I've been good throughout my career at leaving the off-course distractions at home and keeping a pretty quiet personal life.

    "I'm not going to sit here and say that I played poorly yesterday because of what happened on Friday. I just had a bad day out on the course and was proud of how I came out here and bounced back today."

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    Rory McIlroy feels positive about his game despite a continued wait to win an elusive fifth major championship.

    Xander Schauffele secured a maiden major victory by winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which was the venue for McIlroy's last major triumph in 2014.

    McIlroy finished in a tie for 12th place and has often come close, recording 20 top-10 finishes in majors since winning his last, which is more than any other player during that span.

    He had won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship coming into the second major of 2024 and, despite falling short, still feels things are trending in the right direction with the U.S. Open and The Open Championship to come this year.

    Asked about the state of his game, McIlroy said: "I'm feeling good about that.

    "I have been on a big stretch of golf here. I think this was my sixth event in seven weeks. I've got a week off and then I'm playing another four in a row.

    "I'm feeling good about my game. I feel like things are sort of clicking more, especially after the win in New Orleans. 

    "Obviously played well last week in Charlotte. Have a week here to sort of reset and try to get going again."

    McIlroy was in contention for glory after carding a five-under 66 on the first day at Valhalla.

    But he ultimately finished nine strokes behind Schauffele, as a difficult 71 on day two was followed up with creditable scores of 68 and 67 over the weekend’s play.

    McIlroy looked poised for another top-10 finish before finding the water twice on Sunday, but still emerged at four under for the day with seven birdies and three bogeys in an up-and-down final round.

    He continued: "Obviously I started the week well, and then I've obviously played decent over the weekend.

    "That six-hole stretch on the back nine [on Saturday], not being able to hole any putts, I'll probably rue that.

    "Then the 71 on Friday, as well, was obviously not what I was looking for. Obviously put myself too far back. 

    "Overall I am playing solid, game is in good shape, and I've got a week off and then another busy stretch coming up."

  • PGA Championship: Schauffele 'captured the moment' with maiden major victory PGA Championship: Schauffele 'captured the moment' with maiden major victory

    Xander Schauffele says that he captured the moment during his PGA Championship win after handling the big moments better than he had in the past.

    Schauffele won his maiden major victory with a dramatic one-shot win at Valhalla, Kentucky on Sunday, making history as he finished 21 under, the lowest 72-hole score in men’s major history.

    He held off late challenges from Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland to secure the Wanamaker Trophy after carding a 65 on the final day.

    "It feels amazing," Schauffele told reporters after his win.

    "Winning, I said it earlier, is a result. This is awesome, it's super sweet, but when I break it down, I'm really proud of how I handled certain moments on the course today, different from the past."

    "I was pretty nervous. I don't really remember it [the birdie putt] lipping in, I just heard everyone roaring and I looked up to the sky in relief.

    "I really did not want to go into a play-off with Bryson. Going up 18 with his length, it's not something that I was going to have a whole lot of fun with.

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    Despite lifting the trophy, Schauffele believes that he still has work to do to reach Scottie Scheffler.

    The world number one had a turbulent week, which saw him arrested ahead of the second round on Friday, and he finished joint-eighth.

    "All of us are climbing this massive mountain and at the top of the mountain is Scottie Scheffler," Schauffele added. "I won this today, but I'm still not that close to Scottie Scheffler in the big scheme of things.

    "I got one good hook up there in the mountain up on that cliff, and I'm still climbing. I might have a beer up there on that side of the hill there and enjoy this, but it's not that hard to chase when someone is so far ahead of you."

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