Rory McIlroy takes on giant task in setting out alongside Tiger Woods

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Rory McIlroy  - Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy  - Sportsfile

Rory McIlroy believes becoming a mixture of David and Goliath can help in his quest to win a Masters and so complete the career grand slam. And the diminutive Irishman with the power-packed swing will try to put his new split-personality to the test here at the Genesis Open.

“I do like reading motivational books and have got one on the go now: David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell,” McIlroy said. “Am I David or Goliath? I can see both. I think it’s always good to have David’s mentality but there’s obviously being Goliath has its advantages, as well.”

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Certainly, McIlroy will need to handle an intimidating arena when he tees up alongside Tiger Woods in Thursday’s first round.

Woods has been ribbing McIlroy over his remark at this event 12 months ago that the 14-time major-winner was operating at a “two-shot disadvantage” to the rest of the field because of the “circus” which surrounds his competitive appearances. As tournament host, Woods can say who he wants to partner and again chose McIlroy and Justin Thomas. No doubt, Woods and McIlroy are friends, but there will have been some mischievousness in reforming this threeball.

“Tiger texted me last week, saying, ‘how do you feel about giving up two shots playing with me for the first two rounds?’ I replied ‘that’s fine’,” McIlroy said.

“It’s always fun playing with Tiger and it’s more so everything [with] that goes on around the group. The extra people, the clicking of the cameras – there is a different atmosphere about it. It’s a different mindset than being out with another player.”

A year ago, McIlroy outscored Woods by eight shots over the first two days, with the latter missing the cut at the Riviera course. But that was at the start of his comeback from back surgery and Woods was still outside the world’s top 500. Now he returns to the event which benefits his charitable foundation as the world No 13.

“Expectations are higher than a year ago,” McIlroy said. “Tiger didn’t know what was going to happen last year. He’s at a different level now.”

For his part, McIlroy expects better than his tie for 20th this time around in a tournament boasting seven of the world’s top 10. He has racked up top-fives in his first two starts of the year and feels he is in “a good spot” as he looks for his first win in 11 months.

“I have had a couple of nice finishes already this year and I have seen some good signs in my game,” McIlroy said. “I have also been excited how my attitude has been on the course. I am not forcing it and sooner or later, I know I will get myself in with a chance and the door will open.”

Meanwhile, sources say that Sky Sports are about to announce they will again screen all four days of action from the Masters at Augusta after agreeing a one-year deal with the club. Sky are also confident of landing the rights to the US PGA Championship in May.

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