Tiger Woods complimentary to Rory McIlroy

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods smiles during a news conference before the start of the AT&T National golf...

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods smiles during a news conference before the start of the AT&T National golf tournament at the Aronimink Golf course in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, June 28, 2011. (REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:59 PM ET

Can you imagine being Tiger Woods over the past few weeks?

You've gotten used to people speculating about you personal life: The ladies, the crash and the end of your marriage. But now they're talking about the end of an era.

Your era.

And you're at home, sitting on your couch, watching a 22-year-old kid being heaped with the type of praise usually reserved for you, and you alone.

One can imagine that Tiger must have been thinking, "Oh, please." Rory McIlroy's three worldwide victories, and one major, hardly compare to Woods' 71 victories (on the PGA Tour alone), and 14 major championships.

Yet here they were on the Sunday of the U.S. Open, touting McIlroy as the next big thing, or "Celtic Tiger," if you will.

Geesh, they're even giving him my nickname, the real McCoy must have thought.

But on Tuesday, in a news conference for a tournament that benefits his foundation (does McIlroy have his own foundation?), Woods, while answering the compulsory Rory questions, was subtle in adding asterisks to the young Northern Irishman's accomplishments.

"That was pretty good, wasn't it?" Woods said. Yes, pretty good. Not great, just pretty good.

His next comment also was telling.

"It was cool to see that he had softer conditions and he was able to go low but also was able to continue pushing it," Woods said.

Softer conditions? Yes, an asterisk added because Congressional didn't play as tough as most of the other courses on which the U.S. Open has been contested. Woods distanced McIlroy's "soft" U.S. Open triumph from his own U.S. Open masterpiece, in 2000 at Pebble Beach, when he lapped the field on a course that was brutally punitive, not soft.

Next question: Your friend Mark O'Meara recently said that he thought Rory was a better player at the same age than you were... Do you want to get a club and prove that's not true?

"Mark who?," Tiger must have thought. "Yes, I want to get a club and ... maybe 'help' my 'friend' out of his 'car.' "

That's not what Woods said, of course, going the diplomatic route all golfers do when they are asked uncomfortable questions.

"I totally agree with what Mark said," Tiger replied, likely a lie, and adding an asterisk here too. "He needs to obviously continue working on it and continue getting better."

And then, as if nothing were sacred, Tiger even took a shot at another icon of the younger set: Dora the Explorer.

"You know what's actually tough to watch now all the time is Dora (... and Rory)," he said. "The kids are actually now watching other cartoons, which is great."

But can Tiger stop the new generation of golf fans from tuning into the Rory McIlroy show?

MONEY MOVES

Canada quietly is becoming a safe haven of sponsorship for big golf events.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Manulife Financial was bringing a second LPGA event to Canada, starting in 2012.

The The Manulife Financial LPGA Classic will be played next June 21-24 at Waterloo, Ont.'s Grey Silo Golf Course, offering a purse of $1.3 million.

Slammed by the economic meltdown a few years ago, the LPGA schedule had shrunk because sponsors no longer could support events, but this announcement was a boon for tour and its players.

The announcement came after news that RBC was taking over title sponsorship of a second event, the Heritage.

CanadianS Rank

According to the latest Official World Golf Ranking, Canadians aren't faring well: Stephen Ames 177, David Hearn 260, Adam Hadwin 322, Graham DeLaet 339, Jon Mills 399, Mike Weir 435.

- - -

THE TEE BOX

PGA TOUR

AT&T NATIONAL

Thursday-Sunday: @ Aronimink Golf Club (7,237 yards, par 70), Newton Square, Pa.

* Tiger Woods is sitting out the tournament that benefits his foundation. Canadians include stephen ames, Graham deLaet, david hearn and Mike Weir.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

MONTREAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Friday-Sunday: @ Fontainebleu Golf Club (7,070 yards, par 72), Blainville, Que.

* Larry Mize won the inaugural event last year. Canadians daniel Talbot and Jim rutledge are in the field on exemptions.


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