Rory McIlroy: Why Tiger Won So Many WGC Events

What accounted for Tiger Woods’ incredible success at the WGCs? Rory McIlroy has a theory.

Rory McIlroy has won two World Golf Championships since turning professional in 2007, and he’s excited at the prospect of adding a third this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He has been resting since his FedEx Cup win to end the PGA Tour season, only surfacing to play five matches in the Ryder Cup. He’s still in contention to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, which concludes November 20.

“I wanted to come into these weeks feeling fresh and feeling ready to go, and hopefully play some good golf and give myself a chance to win another Race to Dubai,” he said prior to the start of the WGC-HSBC. “It’s my sixth time in Shanghai, and I don’t think I’ve finished worse than 11th. So I’ve played well here but not quite well enough to win. Hopefully I can try to change that this week.”

The all-time leader in WGC wins is Tiger Woods, who claimed 18 titles between 1999 and 2013. No one knows whether Woods will be able to add to that number, as his comeback has been postponed to December. McIlroy has won a WGC event in each of the past two years, taking the Bridgestone in 2014 and then the Dell Match Play in 2015, but he has yet to claim one this year.

“It would be nice to get another WGC under the belt and keep that run going,” he said. “I know Tiger’s won like 18 of these things, I’m not sure. Second place is probably down around three or four. It would be nice to try and move up that list a little bit, too.”

Why did Woods win so many of them? McIlroy has a theory.

“Honestly, I think [he won so many] because of the no-cut format. I think that’s probably a big thing to do with it. You play with a little more freedom,” McIlroy explained. “I never want to criticize Tiger’s game at all, but if there was one thing or one negative you would say about him was that he probably wasn’t the fastest starter in the world in normal golf tournaments.”

According to McIlroy, no-cut tournaments feature less pressure than those that require a given score through the first 36 holes.

“You know you’re getting four rounds, so you’ve got plenty of time to make birdies and play well. And I think just from the get-go, you don’t quite feel the pressure,” he explained. “Even though you shouldn’t really be thinking about the cut or anything like that, but it is a little bit of a mental thing. But it takes the weight off you, and you can go and play just that little bit freer.”

McIlroy added that Woods’ incredible talent had a lot to do with his WGC success. He does not expect to see another Woods in his playing career.

“Someone like Tiger comes around, if it’s not once in a lifetime, it’s definitely once in a generation,” he said, adding that with today’s technology and coaching, it is harder and harder for players to separate themselves from the field.

“There’s parity, and someone like me sitting here, I’m saying that sort of grudgingly because I would have loved to be on the other side of that where there wasn’t so much parity,” he said. “But it seems like anyone that tees it up has a great chance to win because of a number of factors. I think overall for golf, that’s not a bad thing.”

However, he said that for fans, parity is not as exciting as great rivalries.

“For pure entertainment, for people watching the game and wanting to get into the game, they like rivalries. They like guys going head-to-head. You’ve had it in golf in the past,” he added. “Used to be sort of two or maybe three players, and all of a sudden we had the Big Four, the Big Five, the big whatever. It seems like that’s the way it is in golf nowadays because it has become just that little bit more difficult to separate yourself from the rest.”

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