Monday 20 May 2019

Lee Westwood happy to resume rivalry with Rory McIlroy

Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Garrod

Lee Westwood goes head to head with Tiger Woods at the start of the PGA Tour's Florida Swing tomorrow.

But there was still no escaping questions about a possible rivalry with former stablemate Rory McIlroy on the eve of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.

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.

Northern Ireland's US Open champion then failed to take the world number one spot off Luke Donald by losing the final to American Hunter Mahan, but with Donald now on a week off McIlroy will go top with victory this Sunday.

"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 told reporters.

"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."

Westwood's defeat to American Mark Wilson in the third place play-off in Tucson means he cannot regain the number one position this week.

But what matters more to both of them is proving their games are moving in the right direction with The Masters now little more than a month away.

The same applies to Woods, of course. He went out in the second round to Nick Watney last week and that followed disappointing finishes at Torrey Pines and in Abu Dhabi.

Ian Poulter joins Woods and Westwood on the tee tomorrow and Friday and he has made the slowest start of all three this year.

The 36-year-old took time out to await the birth of his fourth child, but managed only 45th and 50th in his first two events back and then was beaten by Korean Bae Sang-moon in the first round at Dove Mountain.

Poulter finds himself under scrutiny from the likes of television commentators Nick Faldo and Bruce Critchley and went on to his Twitter site to say: "I'm honoured that people are talking that I'm not working hard enough on my game.

"I have to answer that question, though. I have never worked harder than I am right now - not only on my game, but on my health and fitness.

"There are areas of my game which we have looked at and are making big improvements on. It's just a case of them coming together.

"This game has a funny way of showing hard work sometimes, but it's showing. Trust me, I will deliver like I promised in the Ryder Cup and like I always do."

Open champion Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose also hope to hit back from their first-round exits in the first of this season's world championships.

The second is coming up next week in Miami and the only way Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington could be there is by winning this week.

At 87th in the world Harrington cannot make the world top 50 in one jump, but the top 10 on the FedEx Cup standings earn places in the WGC-Cadillac Championship as well.

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