Twenty-five-year-old Rory McIlroy’s comment that golf legends Tiger Woods, 38, and Phil Mickelson, 44, were “getting into the last few holes of their career,” brought a chuckle to Tiger, who took the comment in stride.
“I thought it was funny,” Tiger responded. “Phil has less holes to play than I do, though. It’s a reality, you know? We’re all older. I’m nearing my 20th season on tour here coming up pretty soon…. It’s just part of the aging process.”
Golf.com reported that McIlroy didn’t think he needed to explain his comment to Woods after it was widely broadcast over the internet saying, “I’ve said worse to his face.”
The number-one golfer in the world made the remark after neither Woods or Mickelson qualified for the Tour championship that was played last week at East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta. Mickelson had an off year and did not win a tournament for the first time since 2003. Tiger spent most of the early season nursing a bad back which culminated with surgery in March. He was unable to make a successful comeback and failed to make the cut at the PGA Championship.
McIlroy’s stinging comment doesn’t mean that he is counting Tiger out just yet, and expects to see Woods back at the Tour championship again. “I think if he gets back, and when he gets back to full fitness, you’ll see him back here again,” he said.
The last two months Tiger has worked diligently on his fitness and avoided swinging his clubs entirely. According to the Golf Channel, Tiger has not swung a club or hit any balls since August 8, the Friday when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. “I’ve been busting my butt in the gym,” Woods said, and then added, “It’s nice to be able to shut it down and get stronger.”
Tiger says he’s “right on the timeline” to return to play in his own tournament at the Hero World Challenge in early December.