Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shakes hands with Tiger Woods of the USA on the ninth green during the first round of The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 26, 2012 iAndrew Redington/Getty Images

Tiger Woods has backed Rory McIlroy to become a great Masters champion – and says the Irishman reminds him of himself.

As the pair prepare to do battle as the main attraction at Augusta this week, Woods has been wholesome in his praise of the US Open winner.

A year after McIlroy’s infamous Masters meltdown, Woods believes the 22-year-old is stronger for the experience.

“He has all of the makings of being a great champion for a long period of time,” Woods told reporters at an Augusta press conference.

“We have seen what he did last year at the Masters and how he came back at the US Open.

“He led, what, seven out of eight rounds in major championships last year, which is pretty impressive, right in a row. So he just needs to get more experienced.

“Obviously he can move the ball out there. I used to move it like that back in yesteryear.

“The way he plays and I think the way he handles himself out there on the golf course, how competitive he is, he’s very feisty. It’s what you have to be out here.”
McIlroy’s ability to bounce back from his 2011 Augusta set-back has also impressed Woods.

He added: “It was cool to see someone learn from their mistakes like that and apply it.

“You know, he was playing so well, and so be it. He just had one bad round. It happens to everybody, and we have all been in those situations where we’ve had one bad round.

“He learned from it, applied it, and ran away with it. That was some pretty impressive playing at the Open.”