Tiger Woods is a changed man, according to one of his longtime competitors.
Pro golfer Rory McIlroy opened up to reporters about pal Woods on Wednesday ahead of the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, China.
“He’s opened up a lot the last few years,” the 30-year-old said, according to the Golf Channel.
McIlroy said that he’s created a friendship with Woods, 43 — which is different than his past approach to fellow golfers on the PGA tour.
“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,” McIlroy told reporters, the Golf Channel said.
He added, “I’m in a fortunate position that I live quite close to him and we’ve been able to develop quite a good relationship.”
McIlroy said he’s also gotten to witness Woods behind-the-scenes and away from the camera, making his other roles — including that of dad to daughter Sam, 12, and son Charlie, 10 with ex Elin Nordegren — more obvious.
“I’ve seen in the private moments who he is as a person and what a great dad he is, how seriously he takes that side of his life as well. It’s been great to see,” McIlroy said, the Golf Channel reported.
He said, “He’s definitely mellowed as a person and probably sees the bigger picture a little more than he used to.”
The four-time major champion’s comments come just after Woods tied for most PGA Tour titles ever with 82nd career victory at the Zozo Championship last weekend.
Woods has had a banner year, clinching the title at the 2019 Masters as well — his first major win since 2011.