Southampton, N.Y. (Reuters) - Even though Tiger Woods has not won a major championship in a decade, he deserves credit for recent American dominance of the biggest events, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday on the eve of the U.S. Open.
All four majors are now in American hands after Patrick Reed’s win at the Masters in April, which followed victories by Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open), Jordan Spieth (British Open) and Justin Thomas (PGA Championship) last year.
The U.S. also holds the Ryder Cup ahead of September’s biennial showdown with Europe, and continues to routinely give the International team a shellacking at the Presidents Cup.
McIlroy says the current generation have been inspired not only by growing up watching Woods at his peak, but also getting to know him as a person.
“They have probably a couple of guys, but one in particular that they try to emulate who’s back out here playing, and he’s become a friend of theirs,” McIlroy said.
“A lot of these guys have gotten to know Tiger and being able to say, ‘OK, this is what he does, we mightn’t be able to achieve everything that he has, but we can at least try’.
“I think that’s been a huge thing for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cup, and for them as individuals as well.”
McIlroy has won four majors, but has not tasted victory since the 2014 PGA Championship, a drought he hopes to end at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday.
Rickie Fowler is one of the generation who grew up watching Woods but he is yet to win a major, instead carrying the mantle as the best player without one to his name.
World number seven Fowler does not completely agree with McIlroy, believing the 14-times major champion Woods has inspired players worldwide.
“I think everyone can benefit from Tiger,” Fowler, 29, said.
“A lot of us playing now grew up watching him. I didn’t but I’ve heard plenty of stories.
“I enjoy having him back out and playing, and I want him playing at his best because I want to beat him at his best.”
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond