McIlroy and Woods / Image from Getty Images
For a tenth time in his career and the second successive year at Riviera, Rory McIlroy finds himself playing alongside Tiger Woods at this week’s Genesis Open.
The last occasion the Nike-sponsored duo were together inside the ropes was last August at the season-ending Tour Championship, where McIlroy was a Sunday spectator in posting a disappointing final round 74 to finish in a share of seventh as Woods brilliantly and emotionally ended a more than five-year winless drought.
And it seems that just like an elephant, a Tiger never forgets. This time last year, McIlroy told reporters that being drawn beside Tiger is like going out with a two-shot penalty, given the noise and constant disturbance. Sure enough, Tiger was quick to pounce when this year’s pairings were revealed.
“It should be good fun and it will be good fun,” said McIlroy on the eve of this week’s $7.6m tournament at the Riviera Country Club.
“He texted me last week saying; ‘How do you feel about playing with me again the first two rounds?’
“I said I don’t mind giving up two shots to the field,” said McIlroy laughing.
“No, seriously, he texted me saying; ‘How do you feel about giving up two shots playing with me next week for the first two rounds?
“But it will be good fun! Actually, I haven’t played with him since the last day of the Tour Championship, although I didn’t feature much in that last round as I was in the trees for most of it!”
However, all joking aside, playing alongside Woods in suburban Atlanta last year when finishing six shots adrift of Woods is not something McIlroy will fondly look back on.
“No, it’s not something I will look back on, not really,” he said.
“I am a competitor. I am into what I am doing and I was frustrated I didn’t play better that last round in Atlanta.
“So, not really and it is not something I look back fondly on. It was cool for Tiger and I was happy for him but at the same time I didn’t play well and it’s only natural being a competitor I should feel something like that.”
McIlroy was then asked what is good about playing alongside Woods.
“It does put you into a state – like a level of focus maybe you don’t get into but I don’t think it is necessarily to do with Tiger, more so everything that goes on around the group,” said McIlroy.
“The extra people, the clicking of the cameras – you can sort of feel there is a different atmosphere about it.
“So, it’s more that and it’s a different mindset than being out with another player.”
McIlroy and Woods along with Justin Thomas will tee-up Thursday at 8.22pm Irish time this evening.