How Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy compare ahead of the Masters
Both players are returning to form after suffering dips in their respective games.
The world golf scene has been re-energised ahead of next month’s Masters by the resurgence of Tiger Woods and the return to form of Rory McIlroy.
Both are now certain to command plenty of interest in the build-up to the first major of the year, which takes place in just over a fortnight’s time.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at how they they compare.
FORM AT AUGUSTA
Woods has not played at Augusta National since 2015 but the place hardly holds any fears for him having won four green jackets, even though the most recent of them came in 2005. Woods has endured a torrid few years, but if he stays fit, his current form suggests he has to be a contender.
McIlroy is hoping to complete the career grand slam. His 2011 meltdown, when he squandered a four-shot lead on the final day, is not a psychological issue – indeed, it has provided a spur for much of his other successes since. After top-10 finishes in the last four years, he will feel a win is now due.
Much of the excitement around Woods’ excellent performances at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational has been generated when he has holed some long putts. They may not yet be dropping with the regularity of old but, with his short game also in good touch, Woods is a strong performer in and around the greens.
Injury aside, putting has been one of McIlroy’s biggest problems over the past year. His concerns looked a thing of the past on Sunday as, with confidence growing, he nailed a succession of clutch putts.
Woods can be wayward with the driver in his hands and was erratic off the tee during his aborted comebacks from back surgery. Some even suggested he should eschew the club altogether. Although he does now use longer irons more, he has not completely taken that advice and continues to seek distance. It is perhaps a weakness.
McIlroy does not appear to have too many concerns on this front. He may not be the longest hitter in the game but he is not far off and, as he showed at Bay Hill when it really mattered, pretty accurate too.
HANDLING THE CROWDS
Crowds have warmed to Woods during his latest comeback and he seems to have sensed that. This will further boost him at the Masters. McIlroy too is a firm crowd favourite in most of the places he plays.
There may have been some unsporting heckling at the last Ryder Cup at Hazeltine but this will not be a problem among the more reserved patrons of Augusta. Besides, he tends to thrive in such atmospheres anyway.
McIlroy seems to have overcome the rib injury that so hampered him in 2017 and is also more settled after a hectic period in his life that included getting married, moving house and changing equipment suppliers and caddie. With Woods, there is a feeling his back needs constant and careful management but the recent signs are good.
Yet even if both are in good shape, there are plenty of dangerous rivals out there. A number of the game’s leading lights are in decent form, including champion Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and veteran Phil Mickelson. The likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler could also be in the mix.