By Rory Carroll
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy said while he would prefer to have spectators at this year’s PGA Championship, he acknowledged that when grouped with fan favorite Tiger Woods, it does provide a welcome relief from the usual mania.
Woods and McIlroy were grouped with world number one Justin Thomas in the first two rounds of the major, which is being held without fans due to the COVID-19 crisis.
But a few dozen die-hard fans were able to catch a glimpse of the trio teeing off on TPC Harding Park’s 12th hole by peering through tears in a canvas covering of a chain-link fence.
And 15-time major winner Woods got the biggest ovation.
“100%” McIlroy said with a laugh when asked if it is easier to play alongside Woods without the usual commotion.
“It’s so much easier. I’m happy to be drawn with him every week until fans come back.”
McIlroy on Thursday said it was strange to hear Woods introduced at the start of the round to complete silence but said a quieter atmosphere was something players were getting used to.
He said the lack of fans also speeds up the pace of play as there’s less waiting for cheers to die down.
“Even the 12th hole, the tee box there alongside the road, Tiger gets on the tee and everyone goes crazy and you have to wait for them to settle down.
“The fact that we don’t have to deal with that and the fact that he doesn’t have to deal with that every week is sort of nice.
“I still want crowds to come back and fans. It’s much better to play in front of them. But it does make it easier.”
Woods shot a two-over 72 on Friday to finish at even par through 36 holes, while McIlroy is one under and Thomas one over heading into the weekend of the year’s first major.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)