Rory McIlroy believes it would be foolish to write off Tiger Woods’ chances of winning the Open next week, although he thinks Hoylake could also provide one of his best chances of lifting the Claret Jug.
Woods won the Open the last time it was staged at Royal Liverpool in 2006, but has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and only returned to action last month following back surgery on March 31.
And even though the former world number one missed the cut in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional and has not played competitively since, McIlroy is not ruling out a miraculous performance from the 14-time major winner.
“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,” McIlroy said ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
“I mean, he won the US Open on one leg, really on one leg.
“Is it 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. I wouldn’t write him off completely. I still think he can do things that we have never seen from any other golfer.
“I read some of the comments from a couple weeks ago, he said that he felt great and he hit some good drives. So if he feels 100 per cent healthy and his doctors give him the go ahead, then why not.”
Reigning Open champion, Phil Mickelson, admits he will be sad to return the Claret Jug although he might be lucky to still have it in his possession.
“It has been a fun year with the Claret Jug and it’s been really interesting to see the emotional response of people that get to hold it or drink out of it and how much they appreciate what a great trophy it is,” Mickelson said.
“I’ve taken it to some of the courses that I’m a member of back in San Diego and left it there in the locker room while I go play and guys will take pictures of it and take sips out of it. People that really appreciate the game of golf understand and know what a privilege it is to be able to hold it.
“I’m sad to give it back but I’m also hopeful that I’ll have a chance to have a it for another year sometime soon, if not this one.”
When he arrived in Scotland 12 months ago, Mickelson had never won a tournament on British soil and admitted the greatest challenge of his career was adapting to links-style golf.Two weeks later he boarded a plane back to California carrying the Claret Jug and Scottish Open trophy and has made the trip to Royal Aberdeen for this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Open looking to do the same.
“I’ve been over in Europe now for two weeks already, I’m enjoying my time here and looking forward to playing some golf,” added Mickelson, who has been in Greece with his wife Amy and their three children.
“I love these two events. They were two of the most memorable events of my career arguably last year. Having my family here, spending the two weeks here and winning both events was something I’ll always cherish.
“Walking up the 18th hole at Muirfield knowing I had the tournament in the grasp was really the greatest feeling, to be able to take advantage of that moment and not have to grind it out.
“I think Royal Aberdeen is a great preparation for next week and given the forecast for some potential rain and rough weather next week, having the chance to get acclimated this week is a benefit.”
“Tomorrow is supposed to be terrible weather and I hope it is because I would love to be able to get out and play in that stuff that I never get a chance to back home, and have actually started to play pretty well in over the years. It’s fun and it’s a great opportunity.”