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A Timeline of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s Friendship

Published 03/08/2023, 10:12 AM EST

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In the world of sports, two athletes of great caliber are frequently compared against each other. The argument to be the greatest in golf has been a conversation since the sport’s initiation decades ago. While the sport has seen many greats compete against each other, the decade-long rivalry between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy has been among the most prominent in the sport. While the competition may be enticing between them, it is their friendship over the years that have outshined their competitive rivalry.

It may be hard to imagine the PGA Tour without the participation of Woods and McIlroy. The talent and popularity of both men have helped the sport in reaching to a wider audience. Nonetheless, despite the constant comparisons between the duo, how did the friendship start in the first place? Let’s take a look at the timeline of Tiger and Rory’s friendship.

A legendary friendship between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy


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Woods has been in the sport since 1996, long before McIlroy even began his amateur career. Tiger went on to claim many Major victories, reaching the pinnacle of golf. Nonetheless, in the early 2010s, the 15-time Major winner’s rough patch began in the PGA Tour.

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While he struggled to keep up with fellow Tour players, an aspiring Northern Irish golfer looked to take over the golfing world. From 2011-2014, Rory won four Majors, drawing a comparison with Tiger Woods. Though many expected a fierce rivalry among the duo, deeming Woods’ past rivals such as Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, both men instead opted for the route of friendship.


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Though a nine-year-old Rory once warned Tiger about his arrival to the sport, it wasn’t until he turned pro that Woods acknowledged him. But long before the golfing greats would see each other frequently on the PGA Tour, a teenage McIlroy first met his idol at a golf event in Ireland.

A 13-year-old fan seeing Tiger Woods for the first time

In 2002, Woods was the face of golf, having won eight Majors since his to debut six years ago. While many may remember the early 2000s for his ‘Tiger Slam’, Rory McIlroy recalls the timeline as his first encounter with the golfing great. Two months after winning the US Open, Tiger won the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship in Kilkenny, Ireland.

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Since the event was across his hometown, McIlroy was fortunate enough to witness Woods’ mesmerizing 25 under par at the Mount Juliet Golf Course. Moreover, he even managed to watch his future buddy’s trophy ceremony at the 18th hole. “It was the first time I ever watched Tiger play live”, said the Northern Irish years later.

He added, “I idolized him growing up and to actually see the man in the flesh was pretty exciting”. Though watching Tiger Woods win may have been considered a feat by the then-13-year-old Rory McIlroy, the two would develop a bond years later, thanks to their deal with Nike.

Nike is the reason for the legendary friendship between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy

Since his professional debut in 1996, Woods has always been recognized with the Nike check mark on his chest. The 47-year-old has been with the sporting brand all his career. However, the American sportswear also managed to sign McIlroy on a long-term deal once he earned the PGA Tour card.

Having the same endorsement deals only got the rivals much closer. It was the Nike deal that marked the commencement of the friendship among the golfers. Apart from being the face of the PGA Tour, both men also stood across each other in the Nike Golf posters.

The fantastic duo of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy showed off their golfing skills in several advertisements

In 2013, Rory signed a ten-year deal with Nike for $150 million. To announce the golfer’s another decade with the sports brand, the company produced an advertisement casting Rory McIlroy alongside Tiger Woods.

As the ad showed both men displaying their golf skills, it embarked on the beginning of a brotherhood that would last longer than Rory’s contract. Following their first on-screen ad, the PGA Tour duo were further cast in more advertisements together. Their natural chemistry and humor never fail to win the hearts of the golf world, like the TaylorMade advertisement earlier this year.

Woods and McIlroy – a duo rivalry to conquer the golfing world

If two athletes are as great as Rory and Tiger, it is quite evident they are compared in every aspect of the game. While Woods’ strong swing was a heartthrob for fans since his debut, barely anyone can match the power and elegant golf swing of McIlroy in the PGA Tour currently. Nonetheless, when compared statistically, the Northern Irish star may require another decade to match Tiger’s numbers.

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The Hall of Famer’s 82 professional wins which also include his 15 Majors seem monstrous compared to Rory’s 36 professional wins. Though Rory McIlroy had achieved four Majors in three years, he has been undergoing a Major drought since his last win at the 2014 Open Championship. He came close to winning last year’s Masters, but only finished as the first runner-up.

While McIlroy had yet to add a Green Jacket to his closet, Woods outshines his buddy with 5 wins at the Augusta National. And ending the comparison on monetary terms, no golfer has earned more than Tiger Woods. The 47-year-old was announced to have joined the Billionaire’s list last year by Forbes. Meanwhile, McIlroy’s net worth is valued at $170 million. Since he may not be close to the 10-figure mark, the Northern Irish star has joined hands with his friend Tiger in his next endeavor.

A friendship that overshadows the biggest golfing rivalry today

While their friendship has been their priority over their rivalry, both men converted it to a partnership deeming the latest happenings in the golf world. The arrival of LIV Golf left many divided in the sport. However, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy remained loyal to the PGA Tour.


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Their decision to fight against the lucrative Tour further rugged their bond. The two became the voice of the American Tour and even held a meeting with fellow Tour players. Tiger and Rory then announced TGL, a golf league partnered between the duo and the PGA Tour that will commence in January 2024 onwards.

While the battle of the golf Tours may come to conclude in a span of a few years, the friendship between Woods and McIlroy will never draw to its end. The brotherhood developed among the duo is more than just friendship or partnership. Both golfers wish for the betterment of each other. From watching his idol play to starting a new golf league with him. Indeed, Rory McIlroy is living his dream life.


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Watch This Story: Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan’s first-ever Nike contracts make a shocking million-dollar revelation in favor of the legendary golfer




Abdul Bari Khan

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Abdul Bari is a Golf writer at EssentiallySports. Having completed his Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Abdul is currently pursuing his Master’s in the same. With great affection for the world of sports, this avid golf lover turned to the course at a young age.

Edited By: Manaal Siddiqui