Rory McIlroy calls himself 'one of the biggest Tiger Woods fans'

The way Tiger Woods has inspired a future generation of golfers to take up the sport is likely incalculable. We will never know the breadth or depth of his influence on the Rickie Fowlers, Jordan Spieths and Rory McIlroys of this world. The latter of those, McIlroy, spoke recently about Woods' mark on his life and how it has shaped the way he views the sport.

"I'm probably one of the biggest Tiger fans you will ever come across," McIlroy told the Irish Independent in a lengthy interview recently. "I grew up watching him play and know all of his records. I remember going to play at Doral when I was eight or nine -- my first tournament over there -- and being on the 18th fairway of the 'Blue Monster' thinking: 'Wow! Tiger has been here. He's been on the same fairway!' That sort of stuff. And all of a sudden you are shooting a commercial with him."

It goes farther than that, though. McIlroy and Woods have become friends and (sort of) rivals.

"I'm drawn to him, yeah," McIlroy told the Irish Independent. "He's an intriguing character because you could spend two hours in his company and see four different sides to him. When he's comfortable and he trusts you -- and his trust (sensitivity) is way (higher) than mine -- he's great. He's thoughtful. He's smart. He reads. He can't sleep so that's all he does -- he reads stuff and educates himself on everything. But he struggles to sleep, which I think is an effect of overtraining, so I tell him to calm down sometimes. He'd be texting me at four o'clock in the morning: 'Up lifting. What are you doing?'"

That's amazing. "Up lifting, you up?" Woods is a sports lunatic of the highest order.

"He's so competitive," added McIlroy. "I remember being out to dinner with him in New York after this thing we had done for Nike. It was September 2014, but obviously the Masters was (on his radar) and he says: 'I'm not going to let you win that slam.' I said: 'You're not going to beat me.' So we had this back-and-forth about some of the guys he's beaten to win Majors and I said: 'You've never had to face someone like me.' So there's a competitiveness there, but I feel like he respects me."

How great would it be to settle that score on the course. We almost got a chance in 2015 at the Masters. Woods and McIlroy played in the same pairing on Sunday afternoon at Augusta. The problem is that it was the third-to-last pairing behind Jordan Spieth who won going away.

McIlroy will likely never achieve the same numbers Woods has --14 majors and 72 wins -- and that's fine with McIlroy because he also doesn't desire the same level of fame Woods knows.

"I could not live like [he does]," said McIlroy as a reference to Woods not being able to go out in public without getting bombarded." If someone was to say, 'You can have 14 Majors and 70 wins but have to deal with that, or nine Majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are,' I'd take the second option all day."

The entire piece is an incredibly thoughtful look at some of the more intimate parts of McIlroy's life. He is as thoughtful, revealing and interesting as any person who is the best in their given industry whether it's sports, business, music or anything else.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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