Rory McIlroy grew up idolizing Tiger Woods, but in terms of their relationship with the media, the two stars couldn't be more different. McIlroy has talked to reporters frequently of late while nursing a rib injury that has sidelined him since the SA Open in mid-January, and he's been his usual insightful self, rarely shying away from speaking his mind, good or bad.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian published Friday, the Northern Irishman spoke at length about Woods, offering hearty doses of sympathy and empathy for his diminished boyhood hero.
"I never thought I would say this but I felt sorry for him. I just felt bad for the guy that his body won't allow him to do what he wants to do. I can't imagine anything so debilitating where you can't even stand up to do a press conference... Obviously there is a physical battle there but there has to be a mental struggle as well."
McIlroy went on to flash a bit of wisdom, saying that while Tiger's situation is disheartening, the 14-time major champion has much to be happy about.
"I'm glad that he has other things in his life. He has his kids and is so committed to them... golf is minuscule compared to watching your kids grow up. That's where my priority would be now."
"... life is more important than golf, which is what people have to remember when talking about Tiger Woods. Everyone sees him as a golfer, not a person. Tiger doesn't owe anyone in the game. He has nothing to prove to anyone. I just hope he gets healthy and happy."
Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine Woods agreeing with a comment like "life is more important than golf," but in light of his repeated injuries and his growing children, it seems that, on this point at least, the master and the man he inspired are in agreement.
You can read McIlroy's full interview with the Guardian here.