Golfing superstar Rory McIlroy has revealed an amusing tale from the days leading up to the Open Championship at St Andrew's earlier this year, fearing the worst for fellow legend of the sport, Tiger Woods.
The two legends of the sport have become quite close in recent years, and the closer quarters involved in continuing competition throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt been a part of that.
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Paired up for a charity event the week before the Open Championship, McIlroy and Woods played alongside one another in a special moment in Woods' recovery from his horrifying car accident back in February 2021.
The pair took a helicopter trip to another course in Ireland to continue their preparations, but later that day McIlroy began feeling unwell - symptoms of what was soon revealed to be a bout of COVID-19.
"Tiger needed a rest on Wednesday. We had played two days of golf at Adare [Manor] and the plan was to play Ballybunion on Thursday. I woke up that morning feeling a bit achy but didn't really think anything of it," McIlroy said in an interview with The Independent.
What followed for the Irish champion was a two-hour sleep, after which he woke up aching all over and running a wicked fever, classic symptoms of COVID-19, so he called Woods to let him know.
"I rang Tiger: 'I'm not feeling so good here.' And he goes, 'Oh, I feel okay.' But he texted me at 10 o'clock that night, chills, fever, and I'm like, 'F—ing hell, I've just given Tiger COVID! This is horrendous!'" McIlroy said with a chuckle. "So we both had COVID going into The Open."
Fortunately, both recovered in time to compete at the tournament. If they hadn't Woods wouldn't have received the memorable standing ovation crossing the Swilcan Bridge in Round 2.
McIlroy has since added the European No.1 golfer status to his position as world No.1 with a steady final round in the EuropeanTour Championship in Dubai.
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Overnight leader Jon Rahm won the event but McIlroy's fourth place was enough to earn him the Harry Vardon Trophy for the the fourth time in his career - and first since 2015.
McIlroy finished the season top of the European rankings after Matt Fitzpatrick, his only rival, blew up around the turn.
June's US Open champion needed to win and McIlroy to not finish runner-up, or to finish second and the Northern Irishman to be outside the top seven.
But neither of those scenarios transpired as the Sheffield golfer, three off the lead playing the eighth, double-bogeyed and then dropped another shot at the 10th to end his chances.
McIlroy did not need any of the fireworks of the previous day, when he powered himself into contention with a 65, and while he could have tied Rahm on 20 under had he eagled the last he could only manage par for a 68 which included six birdies and four bogeys to finish fourth.
Rahm finished two shots clear of England's Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden's Alex Noren.
It was the Spaniard's his third win in six years at Jumeirah Golf Estates and worth $US3million ($A4.5m)
"It means a lot. It's been seven years since I've last done it. I've won three FedEx Cups since I last won," said McIlroy.
"I was a model of consistency throughout the year and I think my worst finish in EuropeanTour events was 12th at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi."
Having achieved such consistency McIlroy will again turn his attention to ending an eight-year major drought.
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