Tiger Woods pumps the brakes on dubbing Rory McIlroy his rival

Hong Wu

Tiger Woods on Monday congratulated Rory McIlroy for an outstanding year, but No. 3 was not quite ready to grant that the 23-year-old top-ranked player in the world was seasoned enough to warrant the title of “rival” just yet.

“Rory McIlroy had a wonderful year, and my hat is off to him. He deserved Player of the Year,” Woods wrote on his annual holiday blog. “Whether we develop a rivalry remains to be seen. Let's just let it play out and see where it takes us. We'll look at the results the next five or 10 years and see if it becomes a rivalry or not.

“We'll have to win big events and play each other down the stretch,” Woods said. “That hasn't happened yet. We've only played each other at Honda down the stretch. We need a lot more of those type of battles, but in bigger events.”

Woods referred to the early season Honda Classic, which McIlroy won by two strokes despite Woods’ lowest ever final-round on the PGA Tour, a 62, and in which the two shared center stage but did not go head-to-head in Sunday’s finale.

Woods, a father of two, began his missive by expressing his “deepest condolences” to the families of the 26 children and adults slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.

“It's heart-wrenching to think about the children and adults who lost their lives that day,” said Woods, who noted that his 5-year-old daughter Sam and son Charlie, 3, were his “No. 1 priority.”

Transitioning back to golf, Woods agreed with Jack Nicklaus that his best shot of the year was that 50-foot, downhill chip-in on the par-3 16th at Muirfield Village during the final round of the Memorial, with the tourney host himself looking on.

“I just tried to leave it short and let it land to the left about 20 feet, catch that ridge and roll down to the hole,” Woods said. “For Jack to say, ‘I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot’ was pretty sweet.”

Other highlights of Woods’ year included a pat on his own back for a season in which he won three times on tour and “got a chance to play a full season,” compared with 2011, when “I was hurt most of the time.” Woods said it was “very cool” to share the limelight with Nicklaus after tying Jack’s all-time wins mark (73) at the Memorial. Woods went on to overtake Nicklaus at the AT&T National in June, when he chalked up his 74th victory -- second only to Sam Snead's 82.

Health was clearly on Woods’ mind, nearly two weeks shy of his 37th birthday (December 30), and he took the opportunity to remind his young successor and other would-be opponents that he still had some gas in the tank.

“Being able to compete as much as I did this year was very exciting. I could actually go out and practice and prepare and play and not have a limited ball count or rehab training, and could actually train to become physically better,” he said. “I have always prided myself on consistency, and recording nine top-10 finishes in 19 starts shows my game is back on track.”

Woods also reiterated, word for word, the tepid support he offered last week for Tom Watson as captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team: “I'd like to congratulate Tom on his selection. I think he's a really good choice. He knows what it takes to win, and that's our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.”

Woods signed off by noting that he would be on the sidelines when his Stanford football team takes on Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

“I'm planning on seeing the Cardinal beat the Badgers,” Woods said. “You've got two big-time running teams playing against each other. There are going to be a lot of sore bodies by the end of the night.”

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