Rory McIlroy had a season to remember, but there’s at least one thing he regrets.
“I’m like, ‘F—ing hell, I’ve just given Tiger COVID!'”
In an interview with the Sunday Independent, McIlroy recounted the circumstances that he says led to him and Tiger Woods both getting COVID-19 ahead of The Open.
McIlroy said he first felt symptoms while playing in Ireland at the JP McManus Pro-Am a week and a half before The Open at St Andrews.
The field for the two-day, 36-hole event at Adare Manor featured nine of the top 10 players in the world at the time, as well as Woods, and, McIlroy said, “everyone had COVID.”
After playing Monday and Tuesday, “Tiger needed a rest on Wednesday. We had played two days of golf at Adare, and the plan was to play Ballybunion on Thursday,” McIlroy said. “I woke up that morning feeling a bit achy but didn’t really think anything of it. JP [McManus] gave us his chopper, and we went down with (my manager) Sean [O’Flaherty] and Tiger’s manager, Rob [McNamara]. We got around fine, flew back to Adare for lunch and as I’m getting up from the table, I’m sore and stiff and super tired. I said to (my wife) Erica, ‘I’m feeling a bit weird. I’m just going upstairs to lie down for a bit.’ I slept for maybe two hours and the sweat was just pouring off me, then Erica took my temperature and it was sky high. I rang Tiger: ‘I’m not feeling so good here.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, I feel OK.’ 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!’ So we both had COVID going into The Open.”
While McIlroy never said in the interview that he tested positive for COVID-19, he described going the entire week at The Open without being able to taste anything.
“On Tuesday night I went to the Champions Dinner and it was lovely. I was sitting there drinking water and they poured a glass of wine, a lovely 2005 Bordeaux, and I was like, ‘Ahh, I’ll just have a little sip,’ but I couldn’t taste it,” McIlroy said. “The whole week of The Open I didn’t have any taste, and everything smelled like vinegar to me. Everything. It was really strange.”
Despite not being 100%, McIlroy finished third at The Open, while Woods ended up missing the cut.
McIlroy kept up his strong play throughout the season, earning the FedEx Cup for a record third time, winning two other tournaments and getting back to No. 1 in the world ranking. Additionally, he was the strongest and most frequent voice in support of the PGA Tour’s challenge from Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
Woods has not played since The Open, but he took home a $15 million bonus from the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program, which is designed to reward members “shown to generate the most positive interest in the PGA Tour. He will play again this weekend at the 20-man Hero World Challenge, which benefits Woods’ foundation.
McIlroy and Woods will team up together on Dec. 10 for The Match, where they will play against the team of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the made-for-TV event.
Information from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press was used in this report.