'He does things people can't comprehend': Rory McIlroy salutes big dreaming Tiger Woods after 82nd PGA Tour success
Rory McIlroy knows he has more than one rival for golfing supremacy and it's clear that Masters champion Tiger Woods remains one of that list.
The Californian (43) wrote another memorable chapter to his epic career tale in Japan in the early hours of Monday morning when he won the ZOZO Championship and equalled Sam Snead's long-standing record of 82 PGA Tour victories.
Woods' three-stroke win over Hideki Matsuyama at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club gave new meaning to McIlroy's contention in Japan last week that including world No 1 Brooks Koepka, "five people could put their hand up and say they're the best player in the world right now."
McIlroy was likely referring to himself, Koepka and the other members of the world's top five - Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and John Rahm.
But he could just as easily add new world No 6 Woods to the conversation, given the 15-time Major winner's remarkable achievements over the past 13 months.
The Co Down man was clearly blown away by his childhood hero's 82nd win, telling PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan: "I'd have to win six times for the next 10 years to match that."
With 90 worldwide wins, Woods has won no fewer than nine times in a season on three separate occasions (1999, 2000 and 2006) and five times or more a further eight times.
After finishing tied for third with Sungjae Im, six behind Woods, McIlroy told Golf Channel: "It's amazing what he keeps doing with the comebacks - the Tour Championship, the Masters, here, it's incredible.
"He does things that people really can't comprehend, and no one can really understand apart from himself, and I think that's the reason he does these things because he thinks and dreams of things that other people don't think are possible."
Having come from behind for the first time to end that 11-year wait to win his 15th Major in April, Woods produced an impressive, dominating performance in Japan that was reminiscent of his glory days.
Given his remarkable comeback from injury and the myriad personal problems that have dogged him for the past decade, winning a sixth green jacket and 16th Major does not seem at all far-fetched.
"To battle through the injuries he's dealt with - gosh, he's young, and he's playing unbelievable," said US Open champion Gary Woodland, who played with Woods for the final 36 holes.
"The ball-striking exhibition I've seen the last two days is a joke."
Woods is not playing this week's WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where Koepka is also an absentee as he nurses an injured knee.
That means McIlroy will be hoping to take advantage in his battle to get back to world No 1 by claiming his 18th PGA Tour win and his fourth this year.