Both Rory McIlroy and Pádraig Harrington insist it would be foolish to write off Tiger Woods’ chances of capturing a 15th Major Championship at next week’s British Open at Royal Liverpool.
The Irish players were responding to recent comments, particularly those of double US Open winner Curtis Strange, who suggested Woods “would be lying to himself” if he went into next week’s championship saying he could win.
Woods has contested just one event since his back surgery where he missed the halfway cut at the recent Quicken Loans National at Congressional. The former long-time World number One is returning to Royal Liverpool for a first time since capturing an emotional third British Open and just weeks after the passing of his father and mentor, Earl.
“We have all witnessed what Tiger has been able to do over his career, whether that’s come back from injury and win, come back from any sort of off-course stuff and win,” said McIlroy ahead of this week’s Scottish Open.
“I mean, he won the 2008] US Open on one leg, really on one leg.
“So it is foolish for people to write him off? I would say so. If he’s playing and he’s competing, he’s got as good a chance as any.
“Also he wants to start to play, and he’s missed a good chunk of the season and wants to at least get into the FedExCup Playoffs and try and push for a Ryder Cup spot maybe.
“But then I wouldn’t write him off completely. I still think he can do things that we have never seen from any other golfer.”
Double British Open winner Harrington was more adamant in saying: “I don’t believe those comments and it would be a fool for anyone to think Tiger is not capable of winning any week he plays golf.
“The odds of him winning next week are not as high as 2006 when he won but for sure, he is one of the favourites with the bookies and the bookies don’t get it far wrong.”
McIlroy and Harrington along with Darren Clarke join defending champion Phil Mickelson as 10 Major winners teeing up on the Aberdeen links gem. After a family holiday in Greece, Mickelson arrived for his Scottish Open defence in good form after he and long-time caddy Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay defeated Harrington and his long-standing caddy Ronan Flood in a long-awaited nine-hole showdown earlier this week at the nearby Trump International Scotland course.
“It was a really big day for us, a player caddy match and it’s been years in the work with snap talk all the time between Pádraig and Ronan, and me and Bones,” said Mickelson.
“So it came to a head Tuesday at Trump’s fabulous new course just up the road here from Royal Aberdeen.
“We tied the first hole and we’re adding both scores together but then at the second Bones hits a big lofted drive, and I’m thinking we’re screwed here.
“But then after that Bones starts really blinding them so much so we won the next four holes, and then we’re 4 up through five holes and from thereon it was all over.
“We haven’t named our trophy yet. It’s not the Claret Jug but this was a big win and I’m going to enjoy bragging rights over Pádraig and Ronan for a long while to come, and until they can organise a rematch.”
However Harrington jokingly rebuffed Mickelson’s claims, despite losing 2 & 1 to the Americans and Flood playing off a six handicap and McKay three.
“They only won 2 & 1 and Phil couldn’t wait for the second nine,” said Harrington laughing.
“Phil was afraid of losing so he quit, he quit. I would be happy for a rematch.”
And when asked if there was any money changing hands Harrington said: “Let’s just say a nominal amount.”
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