Sunday 19 November 2017

Tiger eyes up McIlroy

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY has made it into Tiger's 'little black book'. Ireland's gifted Ryder Cup rookie yesterday denied point-blank suggestions that World No 1 Woods had words with him in the locker room at Cog Hill during the recent BMW Championship.

Yet with two terse words and a knowing smile during his media briefing at Celtic Manor yesterday, Tiger made it plain that he would relish the opportunity to make a point to McIlroy at Celtic Manor.

The Ulster youngster raised eyebrows last month when he said during a radio interview: "I'd love to face Tiger. Unless his game rapidly improves in the next month or so, I think anyone on the European team would fancy his chances against him."

Asked yesterday what his reaction was when he heard Rory McIlroy say that he'd very much like to play him in the Ryder Cup, Woods answered: "Me too!"

Did he wish to elaborate on that? "No."

Yet Tiger's expression said it all and those who have seen that look before include Stephen Ames, Vijay Singh and Rory Sabbatini -- who have all had cause to regret tweaking the Tiger's tail.

Though McIlroy refutes any suggestion that Woods quietly advised him to "be careful what you wish for" at Cog Hill, he clearly finds himself in the eye of the Tiger in the run-up to the Ryder Cup.

Asked directly if Woods had mentioned this matter to him at any point, McIlroy insisted: "No, no no."

Agreeing that Tiger could easily rise to such a perceived challenge, McIlroy went on: "Of course he would. He's sort of built his whole career on that stuff. I suppose I might be too honest at times, but that's just how I feel."

In fairness, McIlroy's comment was perfectly reasonable at the time he made it.

"You've got to realise, I said those things the week after he'd just shot 18-over at Akron, so he wasn't playing too well at the time," he added.

Asked if events of the past 12 months had diminished Tiger's aura, the youngster replied: "He's still a fantastic guy and I'm sure he'll get back to winning the way he used to. For the meantime, yeah, I suppose a little bit of that aura is probably gone."

Irish Independent

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