Rory McIlroy gives his theory on the penalty of being paired with Tiger Woods
PGA Tour Tiger Woods News

Rory McIlroy gives his theory on the penalty of being paired with Tiger Woods

Credit: Getty Images

Ask any golfer who has ever been grouped with Tiger Woods in any competitive round of a golf tournament what it's like to play with the 14-time major winner.

They'll use a variety of words to describe the experience: intimidating, exciting, scary, unique, awkward and electric come to mind.

What most of them will also tell you -- at least if they're speaking candidly -- is there's a penalty in playing with Tiger. Empirical data shows it, that playing with Tiger Woods has historically led to higher-than-normal scores for pretty much every golfer. Woods can be an intimidating figure, turning from friendly to icy in a hurry, psyching out a pro.

However, Woods' galleries also impact his playing partners' scores. A Woods gallery is unlike any in golf. For one, it's the largest, and it doesn't matter the venue or tee time. It's 10 deep from the get-go because people want to see Tiger Woods play golf. In that gallery are stark-crazy fans, people who misbehave by golf standards. They shout things. They root for the players other than Tiger to fail. Lots of those people are only interested in watching Woods, so they cause a stir and commotion in moving immediately after Woods plays without consideration for the other players.

After having experienced that for the first two days of the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, Rory McIlroy -- who joined Woods, along with Justin Thomas -- handicapped the impact Woods' galleries not only have on his playing partners but also Woods himself.

“I swear, playing in front of all that, he gives up half a shot a day on the field,” McIlroy said after a Friday 2-under 69. “It’s two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that that goes on around (him). So whether that calms down the more he plays and it doesn’t become such a novelty that he’s back out playing again because it’s – it’s tiring. I need a couple Advil just to – I’ve got a headache after all that.”

The four-time major winner compared what it's like for him, a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, to play at less appealing times of day versus what it has been like for Woods for more than 20 years.

“Whoever’s teeing off at 8:30 in the morning doesn’t get that and can just go about his business and just do his thing,” McIlroy said. “That’s tough. He has to deal with that every single time he goes out to play.”

Woods was asked about his galleries, and he agreed with McIlroy's assessment.

“It’s cost me a few tournaments here and there,” Woods said after missing the cut. “What people don’t realize, it’s not just something that happens on Sunday afternoon, this is cumulative and it’s par for the course."

Woods still managed 79 PGA Tour wins, including 14 majors, with all those eyes on him. However, since he's been basically out of golf for most of the last three years, perhaps he's still getting re-acclimated to what it's like to play golf...with himself.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]