'I'm Going Back To The Range' - Rory McIlroy On Being Outdriven By Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods had plenty of trash talk after outdriving Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at the Genesis Invitational

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy was happy to take a back seat to Tiger Woods in the popularity stakes at the Genesis Invitational, but was not so keen on seeing the 15-time Major winner blast the ball past him off the tee.

Woods managed to outdrive both McIlroy and Justin Thomas during his first round back in a regular PGA Tour event for 844 days – something which didn’t go down too well with the younger two players as Woods let them know about it.

It was an unusual experience for McIlroy to both be outdriven off the tee and also to not be the star attraction in the group, as McIlroy is the main man on the PGA Tour above all other players these days – apart from one.

And with everyone out to see Woods’ return, McIlroy was happy to let the attention focus on the 82-time PGA Tour winner.

“Yeah, look, this guy's literally been golf for the last 25 years,” said McIlroy. “So I'm very happy to take a back seat."

However, seeing Woods hit his ball past him off the tee did not sit well with the Northern Irishman, especially knowing how Woods is never shy in letting his friends know about it.

“I'm going to go work on the range,” said McIlroy when asked about being outdriven. “I put my driver up a click in loft at the start of the week, I might have to turn it back down again. I don't like him hitting it by me.”

Woods averaged 311.7 yards driving distance, just short of McIlroy's 315.5 yards but more than Thomas managed with 295.3 yards.

Woods did knock it beyond McIlroy four times though, most impressively on the 11th  when he smoked a wonderful effort 338 yards, one yard further than McIlroy who also hit a beauty.

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McIlroy also felt the pressure on 18 after watching both Woods and Thomas make birdie putts, not wanting to be the only one of the trio to miss.

“That wasn't pleasant," he admitted. “I felt - he holed the one on 17 before me as well and I'm like, not again. Yeah, I certainly didn't want to be the only one not to make a birdie on 18, so that was a nice putt to hole.” 

Tiger Woods jokes with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy at the genesis Invitational

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Woods also spoke of the banter between the three friends around Riviera, which helped spur them on, especially on the final hole.

“JT hoops one in there and Rory's been beating us all day. He's nervous as can be because he didn't want to be the one to miss on 18,” said Woods. “I didn't want to be the idiot host to miss it right in front of everybody after I just went birdie-birdie.

“These are all things that we all say amongst each other but obviously people don't hear it, but caddies hear it, we all hear it.

“It was a great round. The ebb and flow of needling each other, encouraging each other and telling stories. Because I hadn't been out here so I've missed some of the things that have transpired on Tour, which is kind of fun.”

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.