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Rory McIlroy vs Tiger Woods: Who’s More Back?

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in Golf

Mar 23, 2018 · 5:55 AM PDT

Tiger Woods 2013
Tiger Woods, the last time he was BACK. Photo by Omar Rawlings (Flickr) [CC License].
  • Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are both are trying to make a comeback in 2018.
  • Who will have the better year?
  • Could either actually win a 2018 major?

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods aren’t so different, after all. Both were prodigiously talented golf children who took the world by storm. Both seem completely unbeatable when they’re playing their best golf. Both have well-publicised romantic lives with weird correlation to their performance on-course. Both have probably seen better days, golf-wise, although both are making a comeback in 2018. So the question presents itself: which one is more back?

Odds to Finish 2018 Higher in Official World Golf Rankings

Rory Mcilroy 1/4
Tiger Woods 4/1

Rory is playing a more dense schedule than Tiger, who is just here to pick and choose. It’s therefore likely that he’ll win out in season-long stats like OWGR.

If there’s any help at all for Tiger, it’s that the majors, which he’ll be targeting, get a little boost from the OWGR system, with a minimum points haul for the winner.

Odds to Finish Higher on 2018 Moneylist

Rory Mcilroy 3/7
Tiger Woods 7/3

Through five events, Rory has opened up about a half-million dollar gap in total money (with $1,694,388 to Tiger’s $1,121,685) which, again, makes sense given the approach the two golfers are taking. Rory is playing to maximize prize money and OWGR, whereas Tiger is trying to manage a comeback and record some big wins.

Those big wins do carry bigger purses, and Tiger isn’t going to be hard up for money in 2018, but nothing beats the consistency of playing dozens of tournaments and placing well at all of them.

Odds to Record More Wins in 2018

Rory Mcilroy 7/13
Tiger Woods 13/7

Rory’s already got one, to Tiger’s bagel. That’s a big difference, considering that the over/under for Tiger wins could pretty reasonably be set at 0.5.

Tiger seemed unstoppable at Valspar and Bay Hill, but stopped he was. Winning PGA-level golf tournaments requires both a consistency of play that has long eluded Tiger and a healthy measure of good luck.

Odds to Win a Major First

Rory Mcilroy 9/11
Tiger Woods 11/9

Tiger hasn’t won a major since 2007, and even if he is “back” to playing competitive golf he’s still got a long way to go to win a major, and not a long clock to do it on. If TIger retires in the next few years, which is very likely, he’ll be leaving 28-year old Rory McIlroy with four opportunities a year.

On the other hand, Tiger is insanely competitive, and wholeheartedly focused on the task of winning majors. He’ll come into each tournament after weeks of preparation specifically for that tournament, while Rory is off playing tournament after tournament and perhaps wearing himself out a little bit. The travel schedule of a top PGA tour player alone is enough to take some of the zip out anyone’s golf swing.

Sportsbooks will offer you some action on this one, as we’ve covered before. 888sport has odds on players winning each of the four majors, and if you add Rory’s numbers up you get an expected win total of just over 1. They got rid of Tiger’s numbers after we showed you how to take a ton of value from them. He’s supposedly a 15/8 shot to win the Open Championship, which seems awful short, considering that he’s only won once there in eight attempts. Sportsbooks: they love to hose you on the futures.

Rory McIlroy 2013
Rory McIlroy in 2013, one of his worst years on tour. Photo by Tour Pro Golf Clubs [CC License].
Odds to win 2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year

Tiger Woods 8/1
Rory McIlroy 10/1

People forget that Tiger won this award (and the confusingly similar PGA Player of the Year award) in 2009 and 2013, at the beginning and height of his personal crisis. The PGA award is on a points system that accounts for scoring average, wins, and some other stats, whereas the PGA Tour award is done by a ballot of the players on tour. Tiger’s peers awarded him the Tour player award in 2013, when he won a decent haul of tournaments but no major.

Tiger will almost certainly not win the statistics-based PGA award, that will likely go to Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas. Therefore, winning the PGA Tour award would require splitting the two awards, which hasn’t happened since 1991.

Interestingly, the tour got rid of the Comeback Player of the Year Award, presumably to avoid Tiger being awarded it every time he managed to bend over pick up a tee. It’s now the PGA Tour Courage award, which sounds a lot more wholesome but less relevant for this context.

Odds Play Will Be Affected by Relationship Troubles

Tiger Woods 10/1
Rory McIlroy 12/1

It’s about even. Tiger Woods had his famous scandal in 2009, which resulted in the end of his marriage to Elin Nordegren and (arguably) the decline from which we now eagerly await his return.

Rory isn’t without his own romantic scandals, however, as he broke off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 in spectacular fashion. That was followed by the best run of form in his career, in which Rory won two majors (The Open and the Players Championship) and his second PGA Player of the Year award.

The two players thus are similarly prone to romantic scandal, but those scandals are correlated with very different effects on their play.

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