USA TODAY Sports Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods

The longer Tiger Woods is injured and out of the game -- especially without a timetable to return -- the more likely it seems that his professional career is over.

Rory McIlroy hopes that isn't the case. He has unfinished business with the 14-time major champ, and he hopes the pair has a chance to meet in a final round before Woods retires.

This isn't McIlroy wanting to beat Woods straight-up, in some passing of the ceremonial torch. It's actually a huge accomplishment: He wants to go toe-to-toe with the icon he grew up watching. At the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy told reporters he still thinks there's a chance they can meet on golf's biggest stage.

"I think Phil [Mickelson] has even said, that maybe if Phil didn't go up against Tiger in his prime, he would have won more majors, but he always said that Tiger brought out the best in him," McIlroy said, according to ASAP Sports.

"Hopefully, if he can get healthy, I would still love to have a crack at him down the stretch in a major, I would love that, just once. At this point, it's just up to him to get healthy and get his game back, and for me to hopefully keep playing the way I'm playing and maybe one day.”

You can probably bet on McIlroy competing for majors for a long time. But for Woods, the clock is ticking. Golf fans may hate to see it end this way, but few athletes choose the terms on which they retire. It's looking like that opportunity might have passed Tiger by.

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