Rory McIlroy has eye on Tiger Woods in Hero World Challenge
Like most golfers, World No 1 Rory McIlroy will tune into the comeback of Tiger Woods in the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth, fascinated to see how a player, rated as one of the greatest of all time, performs with the fifth version of his swing.
As he watches good friend Woods take this latest evolutionary step in his career, McIlroy also thanks heaven he's not felt the need nor any inclination to make changes to his own game.
Almost from the cradle, McIlroy's been blessed with a natural, effective and deceptively powerful action, while the enduring relationship he's enjoyed since early boyhood with coach Michael Bannon gave him priceless stability and confidence as he climbed the ladder to stardom.
As Woods puts to the test this week his first two month's work with his fourth coach (or 'swing consultant' as new man Chris Como is described) as a pro, the advantage of never having to venture down that potentially rocky road are clear to McIlroy.
"I hope I don't have to, fingers crossed, touch wood," said McIlroy last night when asked if he felt lucky not to have to make any changes to his swing. "I guess it's a swing that's going to do me for life … hopefully.
"There's going to be a point, I suppose, some years down the line where I'm going to have to make a slight change but it's stayed very similar for this time, so I don't envisage having to change it too much in the future, which is a great thing to have."
McIlroy understands the motives behind Tiger's four major changes. The first, under Butch Harmon, came after his sensational breakthrough win at the 1997 Masters. The rest of golf was aghast but young Woods and his mentor were determined to achieve the consistency they believed necessary in his pursuit of the record 18 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods, struggling with knee problems, then took a different swing path with Hank Haney in 2004; followed by Sean Foley in 2010 and, after months of back trouble led to a discectomy on March 31, parted from the Canadian three months ago. With Como, 37, significantly also practiced in the art of biomechanics, Tiger is going back to the swing fundamentals of his youth.
McIlroy expresses empathy. Revealing that he played with Tiger five weeks ago, said he was quite impressed with what he saw.
"I played golf with Tiger five weeks ago and he looked really good to me. It'll be interesting to see how he does this week. I'm sure I'll be catching a lot of the coverage."
McIlroy raised eyebrows in September with his bland observation that Woods, 38, and Phil Mickelson, 43, are on the back nine of their career. The context? Asked about the absence of both American icons from the Tour Championship; McIlroy said he expected to see both back soon, adding nonchalantly: "They're just getting older. They're getting into the last few holes of their career and that's what happens."
Woods actually endorsed McIlroy's opinion: "As for being on the back nine, yeah, I don't see myself playing at this level for 20 more years."
Still, he's highly-motivated to get back to the summit of golf and is inspired by the thought of a long-awaited first eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with McIlroy on Tour.