Wednesday January 16, 2013
Woods and McIlroy to battle it out in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI: The world’s two top golfers are meeting more and more often on the course, but neither No. 1 ranked Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods are ready to call it a rivalry.
The pair, set to meet at tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, have established a blossoming relationship since playing together for the first three rounds of last year’s tournament and have expressed a mutual respect for one another’s game.
But for a more heated rivalry to emerge, they both agreed they need to face each other on Sunday with a tournament at stake.
It has yet to happen, although Woods did make a run at McIlroy in last year’s Honda Classic with a birdie-eagle finish.
“It would be similar to saying that I had a rivalry with Phil (Mickelson) two years into my career. That wasn’t the case. It takes time,” Woods said yesterday.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve gone head-to-head against Ernie (Els) and Vijay (Singh), the most and that has happened over 17 years,” he said.
“But it takes time. Certainly we’ve done it once at Honda... But we really haven’t had the amount of matches or head-to-head duels I’ve had with Phil and Vijay and Ernie. But then again it’s only been a few years. Let’s give it time and see how it pans out.”
Speaking here yesterday, McIlroy agreed.
“I don’t know if you can call it a rivalry yet because we haven’t battled each other down the stretch of a Major,” McIlroy said.
“It’s not like we’ve been playing in the final group of a tournament and we are battling each other. Hopefully at some point that can happen this year and it would be great to be part of that.”
McIlroy joked that that the budding friendship would go out the window should that encounter take place.
“He is going to try and beat my brains out. I know that,” McIlroy said. “I’m trying to do the same. We are both trying to win a golf tournament.”
Woods and McIlroy are paired together for the first two rounds at Abu Dhabi starting tomorrow.
On Monday, McIlroy also confirmed he had signed on with sportswear and equipment giant Nike in a deal believed to be one the biggest sponsorship contracts in sport.
In a glittering ceremony with the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque lit up in the background, McIlroy stepped onto a stage wearing the Nike swoosh and revealed the clubs he will take into competition tomorrow.
No exact details of what the deal was worth were released, but press reports have estimated it could bring the 23-year-old Northern Irishman up to US$250mil over 10 years.
“Growing up I always thought all the best athletes in most sports were Nike players and I’m looking forward to joining the Nike family,” he said.
“I began testing the clubs late last year at the Nike factory in Texas and I could not be more happy. Hopefully now using Nike I have an even better year than last year.
“Last year was great winning a second Major championship and getting to No.1 in the world and this year I feel I can go to a new level and higher than I ever had and hopefully more Majors,” he added. — AFP