Tiger Woods will not hit top spot, says Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy says the golf world has already seen the best of Tiger Woods.
The former world number one has been a shadow of his former self on the fairways and McIlroy cannot see the man who has won 14 majors making it back to the top of the sport’s rankings.
A turbulent personal life and injuries have haunted the American who has not won for two years.
Now ranked 49th — his worst ranking since he was a novice in 1996 — McIlroy is among many observers who feel fans have already seen Woods at his peak.
“We saw the best of Tiger in 2000 and 2001. I don't think golf can be played any better than that,” said McIlroy.
“He didn't even need to play that well to win tournaments — he won the US Open by 15 shots, the Open by eight — I so think we've seen the best of him but that's not to say to he won't win again.
“But (getting back to number one) will be difficult for him because the fields are so much deeper.
“He set the benchmark and that's where we're all trying to get to. I don't think anybody has got there yet but we're getting closer.
“It will be a tough ask for him to get back there.”
Woods has not looked like adding to his tally of 14 majors since his marriage ended last year after nine months of lurid headlines about his private life.
Injuries have been his main worry since then but he has also endured a very public separation from his long-time caddie Steve Williams.
McIlroy's comments came on the day it was announced he has signed a sponsorship deal with European banking giant Santander, underlining his status as one of sport's most marketable names.
Last month he announced his intention to return to the US Tour only a year after deciding to give up his playing privileges on the world's richest circuit.
This U-turn has prompted some to speculate he is turning his back on European golf but McIlroy denies this, offering a far simpler explanation for his change of heart.
“My game is suited to the States. I just like to play over there, that's the main reason,” he said.
“I'm a bit of a fair-weather golfer, even I'd admit that!
“My natural ball flight is more suited to those conditions than it is to the windy conditions you get in the UK or Ireland. So I'll have more of a chance playing in the sunshine.”
McIlroy puts his preference for American-style golf down to his upbringing on a parkland course at Holywood Golf Club.
“I also watched a lot of golf on TV and the way Tiger, Sergio (Garcia) and Ernie (Els) played was how I wanted to play the game. I tried to emulate them.”
Emulating Tiger's pursuit of major victories is his next target.
“I want to give myself a good chance in all four majors,” he said.