McIlroy revels in Westwood rivalry

McIlroy salutes Westwood as competitor

Mark Garrod

THEIR rivalry appears to be growing with every passing week but Rory McIlroy believes he was always going to have to face-off with world number three Lee Westwood.

The two Ryder Cup stars clashed in the semi-finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship last Sunday, with McIlroy coming from three down to win on the 17th green in an absorbing 3&1 victory.

The relationship between the players has been far from perfect since McIlroy left the Chubby Chandler stable last year, but speaking ahead of this week's Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida McIlroy declared that if he is to win tournaments and become the world's best golfer he'll have to beat Westwood.

"It's competitive (their rivalry). I view Lee as one of the best players in the world. He has been one of the best players in the world for a few years. You know, he is one of the guys that when you look at a leaderboard or you look at a tournament field, he's one of the guys that you look for because he's been so consistent," McIlroy said.

"You know if you want to win a tournament, you're going to have to get past him at some stage.


"So it's very... I think we both respect each other for the way we play and how we go about our games. I know he's worked very hard the last few years on his body and on his game, and I feel like I'm doing the same. So you know, I think it's obviously very competitive but very respectful, as well."

Lee Westwood goes head to head with Tiger Woods at the start of tomorrow's tournament but he could not escape the questioning over his rivalry with the 22-year-old Holywood native.

"If I am going to have a rivalry I would like it to be with Rory because he's arguably the hottest player on the planet at the moment," Westwood said.

"I am willing to go along with that if you want to write about it.

"I've been around a long time now -- this is my 19th year out here -- and there's been various rivalries thrown at me during my career.

"I really don't pay much attention to them. You learn through playing golf for a long time that the only thing you can control is your own game.

"That's all I try to do. I figure that if I'm going to keep playing well and getting in contention for tournaments Rory's pretty much going to be in a similar position, so we're going to be playing together a lot.

"It's going to go backwards and forwards. One of us will get the better of the other, as I did in Dubai two weeks ago (Westwood came second, McIlroy fifth), and then Rory got the better of me last week.

"That's just the way it is."