Tiger Woods’ surprisingly assertive view on Rory McIlroy’s Masters chances

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods smile at the 2023 Masters.

Rory McIlroy needs to win the Masters to complete the career grand slam. Tiger Woods was asked about his chances.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Way back in 2011, Rory McIlroy had a chance to make the Masters his first major victory.

Most recall the story by now: McIlroy led after each of the first three rounds, including by four heading into Sunday. He still held the lead as he stood on the 10th tee, but snap-hooked his drive into the trees and played the first three holes of the second nine in six over en route to a final-round 80.

While he broke through at the next major (the U.S. Open) for the first of his four major titles, he hasn’t led after any round at Augusta National since. It’s the one major keeping him from completing the career grand slam, a feat only five golfers have been able to achieve in the modern era.

But the most recent player to accomplish it, Tiger Woods, seems confident McIlroy will eventually get the job done and slip on a green jacket.

“No question, he’ll do it at some point,” Woods said Tuesday at Augusta, ahead of this year’s Masters. “Rory’s too talented, too good. He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time. He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when.”

McIlroy is still just 34 years old, the same as Phil Mickelson when he won his first Masters in 2004 and nine years younger than Woods when he won his last green jacket in 2019.

But McIlroy’s struggles over the past decade to win a major have been well-documented. He won his fourth major at the 2014 PGA Championship and has logged 20 top-10 finishes since — including seven of the last eight — without a victory.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland prepares to play a shot out of the flowers on the 13th hole during the third round of the 2018 Masters Tournament
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On this past season of Netflix’s golf docuseries, “Full Swing,” after Brooks Koepka won his fifth major at the 2023 PGA Championship, McIlroy said he was upset that someone in his “era” now had more major titles than him.

“It’s hard for me not to define myself as one of the best golfers in the world, so when you struggle like that, you feel a little lost,” McIlroy said in the first episode of Season 2. “But, I think it was a wake-up call for me to say, ‘Let’s just focus on the golf for a little bit.'”

On Tuesday at Augusta, he said hearing Woods’ affirmation of his potential was “flattering.”

“It’s nice to hear, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game say something like that,” McIlroy said. “Does that mean that it’s going to happen? Obviously not. But he’s been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it. I know I’ve got the potential to do it too. It’s not as if I haven’t been a pretty good player for the last couple of decades.”

McIlroy begins his 16th Masters at 10:42 a.m. Thursday, alongside World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.