Tiger Woods might be struggling with a foot injury, but he’s confident he’s got a winning partner in Rory McIlroy when they take on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in The Match in Florida tomorrow.
The 15-time Major winner was due to tee it up for the first time since The Open in last week’s Hero World Challenge but was forced to pull out due to plantar fasciitis.
Woods will play in a buggy in the 12-hole fourball betterball clash at Pelican Golf Club in aid of Hurricane Ian relief, and he reckons he can win with McIlroy at his side. “I can hit golf balls. It’s just hard getting from point A to point B, so [the cart] will certainly help a lot,” said Woods. “Being in a cart is a totally different deal. When I was trying to gear up and be able to play in the Hero and see if I could actually do it, the walking part was the challenge, it wasn’t actually swinging. I’ve got to get this plantar to heal and that just takes time.”
Thomas and Spieth are the bookies’ favourites, but Woods, who turns 47 on December 30, is unfazed.
“I can tell you one thing, I have the No 1 player on my team, so I’m good,” said Woods, who has advised his son Charlie to model his swing on McIlroy’s.
“It’s flattering that, in my opinion, the best player ever is telling his son to swing like me,” McIlroy said. “My dad taught me how to play the game growing up, and his thing was to always hold your finish, and I think that’s what Tiger’s dad taught him back in the day. Tiger’s picked up on that and tried to instil that in Charlie. Charlie is a great kid, and he is a great young player. We are all excited to follow his progress and see how far he can go.”
As for partnering his idol, McIlroy added: “He’s probably the best iron player that’s ever lived ... probably the best golfer that’s ever lived. Period. I think if he can just get it out in the fairway and get some looks in the fairway, I think we’re going to have a really good chance.”
McIlroy’s fellow Holywood clubman Tom McKibbin (19) has been tipped by Pádraig Harrington to win sooner rather than later and he made a great start by firing five birdies in a four-under 68 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
“That’s pretty cool to hear that,” McKibbin said. “If I could do that, that’d be pretty special. But we’ll see how it goes.” He’s tied for eighth, just three shots behind big-hitting South African Dean Burmester, who fired a seven-under 65 for a one-shot lead over Austria’s Lukas Nemecz.
“It was pretty good,” McKibbin said. “It was nice to start that way out here because it’s a pretty tough course. I’ll take it any day of the week.”
Gary Hurley dropped six shots in an eight-hole stretch mid-round but salvaged a 73 to share 86th as John Murphy made seven bogeys in a 75 that left him 115th.
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