Top stars see a 'mellowed' Woods in wake of Zozo win

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It was a historic victory last week for Tiger Woods, now atop the PGA Tour’s all-time wins list following his latest triumph at the Zozo Championship. And while he might be best known for the intense focus he showed on the course during his prime, some of the game’s top stars now see a softer side of a player who still remains successful.

Rory McIlroy tied for third last week in Japan behind Woods, and he’s one of the headliners in the field for this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions. Asked by reporters in China to reflect on Woods’ most recent victory, McIlroy shared a belief that the injury woes Woods endured in recent years have added a newfound perspective to the 15-time major champ.

“He’s opened up a lot the last few years,” McIlroy said. “Read a story about him last week going to the movies that day off that we had and getting stuck in the Domino’s in Narita and all that stuff, and that’s something that he never would have done.”

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Those sentiments were echoed by another former world No. 1, Justin Rose, who didn’t play the Zozo but has had plenty of experience going toe-to-toe with Woods over the years.

“It’s been good to see him mellow for sure. I think maybe adversity does that to you,” Rose said. “There’s definitely been moments where he’s probably thought that he might not get back to being his very best. And with that probably comes, you know, a whole different mindset.”

Woods’ victory increased the likelihood that he will choose himself as one of his four captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup, which will be revealed Nov. 7. According to McIlroy, Woods’ stint as captain along with recent vice-captain roles in other team competitions have helped him become more relatable to some of the game’s younger stars.

“I think previously in his career, he didn’t take the camaraderie or the being one of the guys as seriously as he does now as he transitions to this latter part of his career where he’s captaining teams, and he’s being part of Presidents Cups, Ryder Cups and almost like mentoring some of these guys,” McIlroy said. “He’s definitely mellowed as a person, and probably sees the bigger picture a little more than he used to, and that’s a great thing.”