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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 24 January, 2019

Spieth says McIlroy is 'one to fear', and should be his rival for the next 20-25 years

If Spieth wins this weekend he’ll beat McIlroy to a grand slam of majors, but he’s cautious of a showdown with the Down man.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

JORDAN SPIETH’S SENSATIONAL Open victory at Royal Birkdale means another at Quail Hollow this weekend would see him complete a grand slam of majors before Rory McIlroy.

Speaking ahead of the final major of the season, which tees off this afternoon Irish time, Spieth admitted that a duel with the Down man on Sunday could potentially derail his chances of joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four ‘big ones’, but maintained that he relished the opportunity to compete against McIlroy for the foreseeable future.

The latter holds the course record of 61 at Quail Hollow, and by way of overcoming a horrendous start to finish fourth at Birkdale, has been installed as the pre-tournament favourite to win the USPGA ahead of Spieth, who paid tribute to his rival on the eve of the first round.

“Rory is a guy who is very difficult if you come into a one-on-one type situation no matter where it is, and especially in majors, because he’s not afraid to hit the shot,” Spieth said.

He plays so aggressively and that’s what you have to do to win. You’re going to lose some tournaments because of it, but you’re going to win a lot more than playing any other way.

As for their rivalry, Spieth says it remains a healthy one, and explained that the pair are friendly off the course.

It’s a battle he predicts will last for the remainder of both golfers careers at the top level.

“If you’re matched up on Sunday, and you get to choose somebody, you obviously want to be able to play against somebody like Rory who has four major championships and is one of the top couple most accomplished players in this field.

“But he is one to fear in that position because of what he’s capable of doing and how he’s going to do it.

I think it’s cool that we’ve both had the success that we’ve had at such a young age, and I think the coolest part about it is the question of what’s it going to be like for the next 20, 25 years.

“We’re friendly with each other and really want each other to do well because it does push each other to get better.”

McIlroy tees off today at 6:35pm Irish time, with Spieth getting his tournament underway hours earlier at 1:25pm, again Irish time.

Full coverage of every round will be broadcast on Eir Sport, as well as live coverage on the BBC from 6pm Irish time.

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McIlroy says he has nothing to prove as he looks to end major drought

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