The first encounter with Tiger Woods? Rory, Jordan and JT share their stories

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The first time they met Tiger Woods?

Everyone has a story, or at least a remembrance. Ahead of The Match, TNT host Brian Anderson posed that question to Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas during a roundtable discussion with the four major champions.

McIlroy, Spieth and Thomas didn’t disappoint, with Rory recalling watching Tiger at the 2002 World Golf Championship in Ireland, JT getting a ball from Tiger at Torrey Pines as an eight-year-old and how Jordan seeing the coolest shot ever – Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters – sealed the deal that golf would be his sport.

Here’s a closer look at what Rory, JT and Jordan had to say about their earliest encounters with Tiger.

Rory McIlroy: ‘We’ve all figured out that we’re not going to be the next Tiger Woods because there only is one.’

2022 Open Championship

2022 Open Championship

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy during the R&A Celebration of Champions four-hole challenge at the 150th Open Championship golf tournament at St. Andrews Old Course. (Photo by Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m a young kid from Northern Ireland like half a world away from this country, the PGA Tour and Tiger, so, I had a dream that one day I wanted to be like him, right,” McIlroy said. “I wanted to emulate that and every Sunday night I’d tune in to watch the PGA Tour golf.

“I had an opportunity to see Tiger live in Ireland in 2022 at age 13 at Mount Juliet in a World Golf Championship. It was the first time I saw him play live. Ever since that day, before that anyway, but he is all of our hero’s. Anyone who has grown up in my generation, or JT or Jordan who are a little younger than me, we all looked up to this guy. We all wanted to be the next Tiger Woods. We’ve all figured out that we’re not going to be the next Tiger Woods because there only is one, but we all try our hardest to be as good as we can be and we’re all inspired by him.”

Jordan Spieth’s ace…but still loses to Tiger.

2016 Hero World Challenge

2016 Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth laugh on the practice range during round three of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 3, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“What I remember most is when Tiger chipped in at Augusta on (Chris) DiMarco in (2005, 16th hole, final round Masters). I was like 11, 12 years old and that was when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do – I loved golf and played other sports and fell in love with golf really that day. I think it was the coolest shot ever hit in the game that I’ve certainly ever seen, watched or been a part of,” Spieth said.

“I want to say the first time I played with Tiger was a practice round in the Presidents Cup in 2013. That was a really neat experience because we were on the same team and going after the same goal. I never would have expected that. That was my rookie season. For me, that was an I’ve-made-it moment because I’m teeing it up against Tiger in one of these team events.

Tiger: Were you the one who made a hole in one that day?

Jordan: I was but we still lost to you that day. It obviously was a super-cool moment first time playing with Tiger to make a hole in one.

Tiger: And you lost.

Justin Thomas on the time Tiger told him: ‘You don’t have near enough shots.’

Justin Thomas Tiger Woods 2019 Presidents Cup

Justin Thomas Tiger Woods 2019 Presidents Cup

Playing Captain Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas celebrate defeating Byeong-Hun An and Hideki Matsuyama on the 18th green during Friday foursome matches on day two of the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Course on December 13, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images)

“I would say our first actual round of playing together was something in South Florida. Maybe Medalist or something like that. Competitively, Riviera. I’ve played alongside these guys numerous times and I remember after feeling comfortable enough with him and knowing him that I could ask him, we’ve played at home and now we’ve played competitively, basically, ‘What do you think?’ He was like, ‘You don’t have near enough shots.’ I was like, ‘Sounds good.’ It’s always pretty blunt and short and sweet with Tiger. I’d much rather have say that then blow smoke to me.

“I remember going to a junior event at Torrey Pines, where I think Tiger maybe one a couple of times, when I was about eight years old and me being the golf nerd that I was as a kid I had a Titleist hat on. Obviously, with Tiger being Nike I had a pretty good feeling – it was the cross between 8 and 9 and they have to wait there – and I was standing right next to Stevie (Williams) caddying at the time for Tiger and I think if I take this Titleist hat off, I have a chance of getting a ball. If I have this hat on, I probably won’t get one. I took it off. Stevie looked at me, reached in the bag, gave it to me and walked away and I put my hat back on. Believe it or not, that was my first face to face with him.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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