Rory McIlroy says age is taking its toll on Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods
Rory McIlroy certainly has a young man's perspective when it comes to age, suggesting yesterday that American golf icons, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, are "getting into the last few holes of their career".
For only the second time since 1992, the season-ending Tour Championship will not have either Mickelson or Woods in the field this weekend, so McIlroy was asked if this symbolised a 'changing of the guard' in golf.
"Not really," he replied. "I mean, Phil has played well in parts this year and came really close to winning the PGA. I feel like he's gotten a little better as this year went on."
Referring to the crowded US Tour schedule, in which the four FedEx end of season playoffs are being played consecutively soon after an action-packed summer, 25-year-old McIlroy said of Mickelson: "It's a lot of golf for him to play in such a short space of time.
"So you could see he was getting a little tired in the last couple of weeks," McIlroy added.
"Tiger's not here because he's injured and hasn't had the opportunity to play but when he gets back to full fitness you'll see him here again.
"They are just getting older. Phil's 44 and Tiger's nearly 40, so they're sort of getting into the last few holes of their career," he said, clearly equating a lifetime on Tour to a round of golf. "And that's what happens, you get injured. Phil has to deal with an arthritic condition as well. So obviously it just gets harder as you get older. I'll be able to tell you in 20 years how it feels."
Tiger actually turns 39 in December but the wear and tear of 17 high-octane years as a professional clearly has taken its toll as he's laid-up at home for another three months after returning too soon this summer from back surgery.
McIlroy's path will next cross Mickelson's at the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, after which he will play the Dunhill Links with his dad, keeping fingers tightly crossed that they'll qualify for the final round at St Andrews on Sunday October 5, Gerry's 55th birthday.
He's planning to take three weeks off around next month's PGA Grand Slam in Bermuda; will practise for a week in Dubai before returning to tour action in China on October 30 at the BMW Masters, followed by the HSBC Champions (November 6-9), also in Shanghai.
After the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai (November 20-23), McIlroy will defend his Australian Open title, his 27th and final event of the year (excluding those 36-holes in Bermuda).
There are, of course, six million reasons to want to win the FedEx Cup title, but McIlroy insists he needs just one.
"The money is great but at the same time it's the title that would mean more to me," McIlroy said.
He is one of five players who know victory at East Lake would also see them secure the overall FedEx Cup title won by Sweden's Henrik Stenson last year, and with it a $10m bonus.
"It's good being in the top five, you know what you need to do," said McIlroy, who is fourth in the standings behind Chris Kirk, Billy Horschel and Bubba Watson.
"You need to win and that takes care of everything. Being in the top five was important coming in.
"I would have liked to be a bit higher on the list but haven't played well enough over the past few weeks."