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"Rory must now say to himself, 'Look, you must use Tiger as a role model and raise the bar,'" Player said. "The world is at his feet. Same as Ishikawa in Japan. I saw him hitting balls in Japan. Unbelievable. Then I saw Danny Lee this morning. ... Just beautiful. I mean, great swing. And Kim, he can really play."
From Phil Mickelson to Sergio Garcia, those who came along about the same time as Woods often seem a bit overwhelmed when they get into a Tiger staredown.
This next generation seems a bit more willing to take him on. They've just got to do it on the course. The learning curve at Augusta is mighty steep, but McIlroy can remember just about every stroke from Woods' record-breaking Masters victory in 1997.
"The guys that are playing in Tiger's era, I've seen them do all of these things and play in the same tournaments as him, and maybe they thought this guy is almost unbeatable," McIlroy said. "The likes of myself and Danny and Ryo have seen him on TV. You know, we can relate to him in a way, especially that first Masters. He was only 21 and you could sort of relate to someone that age. You were thinking to yourself, 'Well, hopefully when I'm that age, I can do something like that.'"
Player would be a pretty good player to emulate, as well. He won his first Masters in 1961, added another in '74 and captured his last green jacket in '78 -- at age 42.
The Man in Black dueled with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, witnessed Woods' amazing rise and holds the record for most Masters appearances.
No. 52 will be his last. Player will take his final walk down the 18th fairway on Friday in all likelihood, considering he hasn't made the cut since 1998. He'll do his best to hold back the tears as he soaks up all the cheers and the memories.
Then it'll be time to turn it over to the kids.
The game appears to be in good hands.
"The people I've met over the years, the battles that I had with Arnold and Jack and others, and now to see all of these young fellows coming along," Player said. "There's a great saying that the Chinese have. They say, 'Everything shall pass.' And that's what we have got to realize."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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