McIlroy plays down potential Saturday shootout with Woods

Bernie McGuire
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McIlroy plays down potential Saturday shootout with Woods

Rory McIlroy / Image from Getty Images

Rory McIlroy was quick to quell any hype surrounding a possible Saturday faceoff against Nike stablemate, Tiger Woods at the WGC- Match Play.

Rory McIlroy has played down a possible last-16 Texas showdown with Tiger Woods should both players emerge from the round robin stages in today’s starting WGC – Dell Technologies Match-Play in Austin, Texas.

McIlroy is first facing American Luke List in one of 32 opening matches in the €9.05m event.

The Ulsterman then battles South African, Justin Harding on Thursday, who captured the Qatar Masters earlier on St. Patrick’s Day when McIlroy landed victory in the Players Championship.

McIlroy, who won the event in 2015, lastly squares-up for a second time in three weeks on Friday against good friend, Matthew Fitzpatrick after the hapless duo were out in the last match on the final day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But while the golfing world would relish a McIlroy -v- Woods Saturday shootout, McIlroy is naturally staying more focussed on his match against the World No. 67 ranked List

“I think I have played alongside Luke a few times on Tour but there is a long way to go before I can think about playing Tiger,” said McIlroy. “I saw that Fitz (Matthew Fitzpatrick) is in my group and he and I have become pretty close over the last couple of years living down in Jupiter and practicing a bit together.

“I texted him last night and said ‘let’s just make sure we have something to play for on Friday’, so that’s as far as I have thought ahead this week.”

If McIlroy does get past the round robin stage and also past Woods, he then has three more matches to make the final, and if he does go on to capture a second Tour title in as many events, then McIlroy could go back to World No. 1.

He was last on top of the rankings in finishing 17th in his defence at the 2015 PGA Championship but again, McIlroy was staying in the present.

“No, I’m not thinking about going back to No. 1. All I am thinking about is my match tomorrow and that is something I have not been able to do the last couple of years,” he said.

“I went out last year against Peter Uihlein and was beaten on the first day and also lost my first match the year before against Soren Kjeldsen, so I have been on the wrong side of that the last few years.

“So, winning my match on Wednesday is the first step in the process and if I do win seven matches this week, that would be awesome.

“Let’s just see what happens as winning tournaments and getting to World No. 1 is a by-product of doing all the little things right.

“I feel like I am doing the little things right and step-by-step they will add up to all that stuff other people find important.”

For Tiger’s part, the former three-time Match Play winner has not qualified for the event since losing out in a first match to England’s David Howell in 2013. Woods tees-up in round one against compatriot, Aaron Wise and then faces Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay.

Rory McIlroy tees off against Luke List at 18.22 Irish time.

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