Rory McIlroy admits surprise at Tiger Woods’ win: ‘I didn’t see it’

November 5, 2019
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in advance of the Japan Skins.

Coming off a lengthy layoff and knee surgery, not many golf fans expected Tiger Woods to have his top game at the Zozo Championship. Rory McIlroy was among them.

On Brad Faxon’s SiriusXM radio show Monday, Faxon asked McIlroy if he’d seen Woods’ win coming.

“Not at all,” McIlroy said with a laugh. That Monday, McIlroy, Woods, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama played the Japan Skins, and Woods had come out of the gates distinctly rusty.

“I mean, we were all a little tired, we’d just gotten there but I didn’t see it,” McIlroy continued. “I mean look, he’s Tiger Woods and everything and he does things that other people just can’t do, but from what I saw on the Monday I didn’t think that his game looked sharp enough to contend.”

McIlroy did say that his caddie Harry Diamond had mentioned just how sharp Woods’ short game had looked. Still, the long game looked off.

The rest, of course, was history.

“Obviously whatever he did, he got it together for a few days and that was some performance, to play that good on that golf course,” McIlroy said. “That was a pretty tough golf course, so to have that control of his ball like that, to shoot 19 under and win pretty easy in the end was awfully impressive.”

McIlroy cited the 2018 Tour Championship, Woods’ first victory in more than five years, as another occasion where Woods had blown him away with a combination of course management and game control.

“When he gets into contention, that’s what he does. He makes other guys try to do too much and they make mistakes and more often than not he’s the guy holding the trophy at the end of the day.”

Tiger Woods raises his putter after winning the Zozo Championship on Monday in Japan.
Getty Images

Woods also got McIlroy’s distinct endorsement for Presidents Cup playing captain. He has to make a decision on his final four U.S. Team members this coming Thursday.

“Tiger Woods not only deserves to be on that team he should be on that team. He’s one of the best, obviously, American players, and no doubt he should be there in a playing way,” McIlroy said.

We’ll see Woods next at the Hero World Challenge, which runs Dec. 4-7. McIlroy will tee it up in the European Tour’s finale, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai Nov. 21-24, before a planned eight-week hiatus.

“Gonna work on my tennis a little bit,” he said.

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