Woods has had plenty of rivals over the years, and sees McIlroy as the next one.
‘‘Over the course of my career, I've had a few. Certainly, Rory is this generation,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I've had Phil (Mickelson) and Vijay (Singh) and Ernie (Els) and David (Duval) for a number of years, and now Rory’s the leader of this new, younger generation. So, yes, definitely.’’
McIlroy isn’t so sure.
Never mind that he became the first player to win consecutive PGA Tour events with Woods in the field, or that he built a big gap in the world ranking by the end of last year. Padraig Harrington once said it could be McIlroy — not Woods — who has the best chance of breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional majors.
Not so fast, McIlroy replied.
‘‘When you speak of rivals, you tend to put rivals who have had similar success,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘He’s got 77 PGA Tour wins. I've got six. He’s got 14 majors. I've got two. If I saw myself a rival to Tiger, I wouldn’t really be doing him much justice.’’