McIlroy labels Woods 'greatest player ever'

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Rory McIlroy insists Tiger Woods is the greatest player in the history golf.

Former world number one Woods on Wednesday announced he hopes to return to competitive action at the Safeway Open next month, having not played on the PGA Tour since the Wyndham Championship in August 2015 due to back problems.

Many observers consider 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus to be the sport's best.

Woods had appeared destined to match the glittering haul of his countryman, but has been stuck on 14 majors since capturing the 2008 U.S. Open, as loss of form and fitness, coinciding with revelations about a series of extra-marital affairs, prompted a spectacular fall from grace.

McIlroy, though, having grown up watching Woods' extraordinary period of dominance in the late 1990s and 2000s, remains in awe of the 40-year-old's achievements. 

"People forget how good he was," the Northern Irishman told media ahead of the BMW Championship. "That 10-year stretch of golf was the best we have ever seen on the planet by anyone. I don't care what anyone tells us about Jack Nicklaus's record or anyone else. 

"That 10-year stretch was the best. I don't know if anyone's going to emulate that, but I think people need to remember that. 

"He has been and is the greatest player that has ever played this game. Maybe not by records but ... no-one played a 10-year stretch of golf remotely like he did." 

McIlroy, who won the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston last weekend, is relieved he will not be present should Woods make good on his target of featuring in California next month.

"I'm sort of glad I'm not there that week," he said.

"It's going to be a bit of a circus. Good to see him back, good to see him healthy. It'll be exciting to see him back on the course again."