Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods made headlines this past summer at The 150th Open for two completely different reasons. In what was possibly Woods' last competitive stroll around the Old Course at St. Andrews, McIlroy ascended to the top of the leaderboard and went into the pivotal final round with a share of the lead. Yet just days before, the two were hardly feeling their best as McIlroy revealed in an interview with The Independent that the pair contracted COVID-19 in the lead-up to the final major championship of the year.
"Tiger needed a rest on Wednesday. We had played two days of golf at Adare [Manor] and the plan was to play Ballybunion on Thursday. I woke up that morning feeling a bit achy but didn't really thing anything of it," said McIlroy. "JP [McManus] gave us his chopper and we went down with Sean 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 Erica, 'I'm felling 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 okay.' 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!' (laughs) So we both had Covid going into The Open."
Something to laugh at now, but imagine just how different The Open would have been without the presence of McIlroy or Woods. The 15-time major champion may have never walked over the Swilcan Bridge where golf fans held with bated breath wondering if Woods would pause to soak in the Old Course one last time or not. The scenes of Woods subsequently walking down the 18th hole may be considered by some the moment of the year in golf.
For McIlroy, he may have never came so close to adding major No. 5 to his impressive résumé. Capturing the hearts of St. Andrews in the process, locals attempted to will the Northern Irishman to the Claret Jug and made for one of the great home field advantages in recent memory.
Speaking in hypotheticals, the inclusion of both was essential to what was an incredible 150th Open. Luckily for golf fans, the two will be back in action sooner rather than later as they face off against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in The Match VII on Dec. 10.