As the countdown to the return of the Tiger Woods return to competitive golf at the Masters on April 8 beings in earnest, Irish golfing phenom Rory McIlroy cannot wait to welcome back the 14-time major champion.

“I'm delighted Tiger is back and playing at the Masters. All I am going to judge him on is his golf game, nothing else,” said McIlroy. “I'm looking forward to shaking his hand when I see him. The tour would never be as good without him so I'm thrilled he's back.

“It's scary to see the pressure and level of fame that follows him everywhere. In a way he is a victim of his own success. But one thing you can't take away from him is when he hits the golf course he always turns it on.”

Tiger aside, McIlroy, who finished at last year's Masters in a tie for 20th place, cannot wait to tee off at August National again.

“The course, the club, the crowd, the whole thing, it's completely different to any other golf tournament in the world. It's incredible.

“I think I have a good chance this year. I've been preparing back home in Bangor. It would be my wildest dream come true to win but it's also the toughest tournament in the world.”