Rickie Fowler has Rory McIlroy in his sights
'We'll have some heated battles ahead'
RICKIE FOWLER is relishing the chance to resume his rivalry with close friend Rory McIlroy despite the world number one's dominance over him in the last 12 months.
The 26-year-old recorded top-five finishes in all the majors last year but saw the Northern Irishman win two of them, winning a head-to-head duel when paired together on the final day of the British Open at Royal Liverpool.
McIlroy also demolished Fowler 5&4 in the singles as Europe retained the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September.
In an effort to make his schedule more worldwide this year, Fowler is making his debut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship - and will again be paired with McIlroy, and also Italian Matteo Manassero for the first two rounds.
"Obviously Rory and I got to play a bit last year, a couple final groups, and we'll see if we can make it a little bit more fun this week," said the American.
"Rory is the best player in the world right now and proved that last year. I'm definitely looking forward to 2015, having some great match-ups with him, along with some of the other great young players.
"It's not just 2015 to look forward to but the rest of our careers. We have a lot of time that we're going to be able to play against each other and this is really just the start of it.
"I'm really looking forward to it, and I feel like we're going to have some fun and heated battles at times." McIlroy, now a four-time major winner, is making his first appearance of the year and he wants to continue where he left off in 2014.
Doing so against Fowler makes it all the more enjoyable.
"It is great we are side by side now," he said. "We had a couple of great battles last year at the majors and it will be great to start this year with another at Abu Dhabi and it may be a precursor to what lies ahead in 2015."
McIlroy is looking for his first win in Abu Dhabi having come second twice previously - mainly due to him falling foul of the rules.
"I've come close here before but not quite got over the line," the 25-year-old added.
"Martin Kaymer has beaten me on a couple of occasions and I've had a couple of altercations with the rule book," said McIlroy.
"In 2012 and 2014 I finished one behind with two-shot penalties so the goal this week is to have no two-shot penalties.
"I don't think there is anywhere better to start the season.
"It has been a great 10 days or so of preparation (he has been in nearby Dubai practising) so I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing again," he added.
"2014 was a great year for me and I will just try to pick up where I left off."