'I grew up dreaming of taking on Tiger': McIlroy rubbishes talk Woods is finished

The Down man will come face to face with the world number one in Dubai this week.

Image: Vincent Yu/AP/Press Association Images

WITH MORE TALK speculating Tiger Woods’ time at the top may be nearing an end, Rory McIlroy – for one – refuses to believe it.

The Northern Irishman has been drawn against the world number one at the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club this week, with Woods coming in on the back of a surprise career-first at the Farmers Insurance Open last weekend.

The 14-time major winner was on the end of a ‘made cut, did not finish’ anti-climax to his week at Torrey Pines in California, which saw him cut under PGA Tour rules that enforce a 54-hole cut when more than 78 players make the first 70-player cut through ties.

A third-round seven-over 79 saw Woods stumble at an event he has won seven times, and such is the fickle nature of professional sport, it cast doubt over whether the 38-year-old will rise to major glory again.

But McIlroy said he was looking forward to seeing Woods regain his form in Dubai this week – a tournament the American has won twice – and beyond.

“It’s great to have him here (in Dubai),” McIlroy said.

“He got off to a bit of a slow start to the season so he will be wanting to make up for that this week.

“I think he has still got a few good years left so I am looking forward to battling with him down the stretch a few times.”

McIlroy said he was looking forward to the day he and Woods are locked in a two-man tussle late in a major, as he wants to test himself against the best.

“Of course that excites me,” McIlroy responded, when asked his thoughts on going down the stretch against Woods.

“I grew up dreaming of a scenario like that, taking on Tiger down the stretch of a major. Taking him on down the stretch at any tournament, in fact.

“It hasn’t quite happened yet; we have sort of been in contention a few times without having a battle.

The best

“You always want to put yourself against the best and Tiger has been the best in this game for the last 15-20 years.”

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On his own game, the world number seven said he was happy with his start to the season in the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi where he finished tied second behind Pablo Larrazabal.

“I have started off the year well,” McIlroy said.

“I was a little disappointed coming off the second place in Abu Dhabi.

“I felt like I should have won but there were a lot of positives to take from the week.

“I played very well.

“I felt like I could have done a few things better, which I have worked on over the last week to go into this tournament in Dubai, but all in all I am in a good place and really looking forward to 2014.”

McIlroy said his use of the sand wedge in his game this season could be the difference, as he sacked the three iron from his bag.

“Wedge play has been a big thing,” he said.

“I have added that extra wedge into my bag instead of a three-iron.

“I figured the distance I am hitting the ball just now, I am going to be hitting more wedges into greens than three-irons.

“To be able to give myself more variety from 150 yards in I have added that extra wedge.

“I just thought if I could have got my wedges a little closer in Abu Dhabi, it would have made a difference.”

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