16-year-old Rory McIlroy: posed as photographer to catch a glimpse of hero Tiger Woods

Rory McIlroy has become modern golf’s biggest name alongside Tiger Woods in recent years, but as a teenager the Northern Irishman went to extreme measures to get close to his hero


Rory McIlroy once posed as a photographer to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods whilst competing as a 16-year-old at the Dubai Desert Classic.


McIlroy has become Woods’ strongest ally in the world of golf in recent years, announcing himself as the PGA Tour’s biggest name alongside the 15-time major champion. The pair have even gone into business together too, with McIlroy and Woods forming the soon-to-be-launched innovative golf league, TGL.


The Northern Irishman’s relationship with the PGA Tour’s joint-most successful player of all time has not always been as strong though, with McIlroy looking up to Woods as his hero as a youngster.


As a 16-year-old, McIlroy was given the chance to tee it up at the 2006 Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, joining a field including the great Woods. As a relative unknown, McIlroy completed his opening round fairly early on, with Woods heading out in the featured groups later that day.


Keen to get a glimpse of the 15-time major winner up close, McIlroy revealed in 2012 that he imitated a photographer to follow Woods during his own opening 18 holes. Reminiscing about his first ever Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy told ESPN 12 years ago: “I remember what I shot [in 2006] – I shot two 72s and missed the cut by one.


“I remember I played on Thursday morning, and then on Thursday afternoon Tiger was playing. I came out in the afternoon and took one of the photographer’s cameras off of him and was able to follow inside the ropes, which was pretty cool.



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“That was my first real taste of Dubai, and I’ve been coming back every year since.” Unsurprisingly it was Woods who went on to win the event in the Middle East that year, defeating fellow great Ernie Els via a playoff after tying the week at 19-under-par.


Since then though McIlroy himself has become some what of a Dubai Desert Classic expert. The four-time major champion gained his first ever professional title at the Middle Eastern event in 2009, and has since gone on to win the Dubai crown three times overall.


Last year’s proved to be one of the most memorable, as McIlroy battled it out with his LIV Golf rival Patrick Reed. Earlier in the week, the pair had been embroiled in controversy after the Northern Irishman was seen ignoring Reed on the range, who responded by throwing a tee at the four-time major winner.



Gideon Canice

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