If a poll had been taken a matter of weeks ago on which of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods would have been watching the other from their sofa after missing the cut at the Valspar Championship, the vast majority would have elected for Woods.
So it’s a strange turn of events we witnessed last week, as McIIroy endured another rough tournament – missing his second cut of the season – while Woods got within one shot of forcing a playoff for the title.
After a couple of years of injury torment, Woods appears to be on an upward curve and building nicely towards the opening major of the year at the Masters next month.
In contrast, McIIroy is heading back to the drawing board looking for answers – and he appears a million miles away from contending for the only major that still escapes him.
“It’s hard because when I play my weeks off or practice, it feels pretty good,” McIlroy said, per Golf Digest, following his missed cut at the Valspar. “When I get out on to the course it isn’t quite the same.”
It is a concern that McIlroy is trotting out the line that everything is great on the range in and it practice rounds, as Jimmy White is still knocking in century breaks on the practice table.
Prior to Woods’ injury, he and McIIroy – the poster boys of Nike golf – were tipped to forge a rivalry that would take the sport to new levels of exposure.
Woods fell off the radar due to persistent back problems, and at the same time McIIroy has gone from a man tipped for double-digit majors to a player scrambling for form.
Such is the technical nature of golf, a minor tweak under the watchful gaze of his coach Michael Bannon could spark McIlroy into life – but at the moment he looks short on confidence and unsure of his next move.
It’s also interesting that Woods is now a shorter price in the betting than McIlroy for Masters glory, with the former chalked up at 12.0 by 188BET – with the latter available to back at 13.0.
It was only late last year that Woods was questioning whether he would ever play competitive golf again. A few months on and he came within a whisker of his first victory since 2013 and will head to the Arnold Palmer Invitational – a tournament he has won on eight previous occasions – high on confidence.
McIlroy too will tee it up at Bay Hill and the Irishman needs to find the answers as watching weekend golf from his sofa is a habit he has to nip in the bud.