Tiger Woods car crash: Rory McIlroy expresses relief that Tiger Woods survived horrific accident
"I think everyone should just be grateful that he's here, that he's alive, that his kids haven't lost their dad. That's the most important thing. Golf is so far from the equation right now, it's not even on the map at this point"
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 25/02/21 1:13pm
Rory McIlroy insisted that Tiger Woods surviving his horrific car crash in California far outweighed the importance of returning to competitive golf in the future.
"He's not Superman," was McIlroy's abrupt reminder that golf fans should be grateful that Woods will be able to go home to his family when he leaves hospital to begin a long road to recovery.
The 45-year-old underwent emergency surgery after suffering "significant injuries" to his right leg, with multiple fractures and a shattered ankle requiring rods, screws and plates to aide the healing process.
Given the severity of his injuries, Woods faces several months out of action while he rehabilitates, but McIlroy played down the importance of the 15-time major winner returning to professional golf and expressed his relief that the accident was not fatal.
"He's a human being at the end of the day, and he's already been through so much," said McIlroy as the news of Woods' crash continued to dominate the build-up to the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession in Florida.
"At this stage I think everyone should just be grateful that he's here, that he's alive, that his kids haven't lost their dad. That's the most important thing. Golf is so far from the equation right now, it's not even on the map at this point.
Woods recovering after surgery
Tiger Woods "awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room" following surgery on the serious injuries to his right leg
"He's here, he's fine, he's got some pretty bad injuries, but he's going to be okay. I was looking at some of the coverage yesterday and they were talking as if he was gone. It's like, he was in a car crash. It was really bad, he's very fortunate to be here, which is great, but I mean, that's the extent of it."
McIlroy dismissed suggestions that many players in the field for the first World Golf Championship event of the year would be distracted by Tuesday's events in Los Angeles, adding: "Of course we're all going to play a golf tournament and seem no different.
"It's obviously going to take a bunch of attention away from this golf tournament, but that's nothing to do with us, that doesn't fall on us, and we don't really feel that when we're playing anyway."
There has been much speculation that Woods will struggle to compete at the highest level if and when he is able to resume his career, but McIlroy is certain he will continue to have a huge impact on the sport when he hangs up his spikes.
"It's always great when he plays at a tournament or is out here because it gives that tournament an extra dimension that it usually doesn't," McIlroy added. "I think we were all sort of heading towards that day that Tiger wasn't going to be a part of the game.
"I'm not saying that that was soon. Before this accident, he was rehabbing a back injury and hopefully going to come back and play this year.
"But it's inevitable that one day he won't be a part of it, and that's going to be just something that the game of golf and the Tour is going to have to deal with and adapt to.
"Obviously, we hope he comes back and is able to play, but if he's not, I think he'll still be a part of the game in some way, whether it's obviously his design business and his foundation and hosting golf tournaments.
"It may be the end of seeing the genius at work with a club in his hand, but there's still a lot of other ways that he can affect the game in a great way."
McIlroy also believes that Woods' memorable victory at The Masters in 2019 following a long recovery from spinal fusion surgery was arguably a greater achievement than Ben Hogan winning four majors after surviving a near-fatal car crash in 1949, when doctors warned him he may never walk again.
"I had lunch with Tiger in March or April 2017, just after he had the fusion," McIlroy said. "And then to work his way from hardly being able to stand, to walk, to being able to get his game back into shape and winning the Masters two years later? I don't think people realise the things he had to deal with to get to that point to win Augusta in 2019.
"I don't want to take anything away from what Ben Hogan did after his car crash or any of the other comebacks that athletes have had in other sports, but right now I can't think of any greater comeback in sports than the journey that he made from that lunch we had in 2017 to winning the Masters a couple of years later."