Tiger Woods believes Rory McIlroy is getting his golf game back on track and predicted on Tuesday (October 29) the former world number one would soon claim his first victory of the year.
McIlroy was on top of the world at the end of 2012, having won the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic, but he has had a turbulent season this year on and off the course.
The Northern Irishman changed his clubs in January, a switch that was criticised by several pundits. He is also in the middle of a bitter court dispute with his former management team and, according to media reports, has split from girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.
Speaking at a promotion event in Macau, Woods said: “He’s playing better. He’s swinging a lot better. You can see that some of the stuff he and his coach are working on are starting to come together. He’s starting to put together a few good rounds now he just has to make a few more putts. I can definitely see him winning sometime this year,” 14-times major winner Woods said.
World number one Woods had a close-up view of McIlroy when he lost to the twice major winner in a lucrative head-to-head exhibition match on China’s Hainan Island on Monday.
The two golfers are both based in Florida and the 37-year-old American said he and world number six McIlroy had formed an excellent relationship after being paired together in tournaments.
Woods didn’t want to talk about analyst Brandel Chamblee’s magazine column in which he accused Woods of a series of rules violations.
“I’m moving forward with it and we’ll see what the Golf Channel does,” was all he would say.
Woods has taken full advantage of the 24-year-old McIlroy’s form slump, returning to the top of the world rankings with five victories this season.
But none of his 2013 wins have come in the majors.
“The game plan (for 2014) is the same as always, try to peak for those four events. This year I had a chance on the back nine and two on the four. The Masters and British Open I was right there. I had a chance but unfortunately I didn’t get it done.
“Next year we’re at four venues that I like and I’ve played well on. So hopefully next year will be a little bit better.”
He still yearns to break the 18-major record of compatriot Jack Nicklaus.
“It took him until he got to 46 to do it. This year I’ll be 38 so there’s plenty of time. A lot of guys have won a lot of majors post 40. The great thing about staying fit is that we’re able to play at a high level for a long period of time, so hopefully I can compete at this level for a very long period of time,” he said.
Woods, no stranger to injury having needed surgery on torn knee ligaments in 2008, praised his girlfriend, Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn, as she recovers from a serious crash in February this year which left her with two torn ligaments.
“I went through the same thing back in ’08. It’s not a fun process. People don’t realise how hard it is to come back from an ACL and she had ACL and MCL and it’s been pretty remarkable how hard she’s worked. And she’s skiing, she’s skiing great but she needs a little more snow time. But she’ll be ready for Beaver Creek in a few weeks,” said Woods.
Vonn plans to return to comeptitive skiing at the FIS women’s downhill Super-G race at the beginning of December in Colorado.