McIIroy and Woods not playing the game yet
Golf:The media loves a good rivalry, preferably with teeth and hair flying, but ahead of teeing off together at the the FedEx Cup play-offs at The Barclays at Bethpage Black, neither Rory McIlroy nor Tiger Woods was taking the bait today.
The Northern Irishman’s PGA Championship win 10 days ago has copper-fastened his position as heir apparent to the 14-time major winner Woods and the FedEx rankings will conveniently cast them into the arena, along with Zach Johnson, tomorrow.
McIlroy, having won another major - his second - by eight shots, is in a good place at the end of a season in which he missed four cuts out of five at one stage. The Farmingdale, New York venue, like Kiawah Island, is a big course that should suit the new driver that has settled into his bag so well over recent weeks.
Woods, ranked first in the FedEx standings to McIlroy’s third, slipped away over the weekend of the PGA but three wins on Tour this year have him well primed.
It would be all set up if one of them would just fire the first shot.
McIlroy did play along somewhat today but a burst of laughter meant no battle lines could be drawn when he expressed a wish to meet Woods early in the Ryder Cup at Medinah and “kick his ass”.
Woods, said the world number one, brings out the best in him and he expects him to do the same tomorrow.
“I really enjoy his company. I know we'll have a good time out there.”
Yeah, but, is it a rivalry?
“No, I don't think so,” said the 23-year-old. “I've always said the players don't build up rivalries themselves, people from the outside build up the rivalries. I just want to play good golf.”
Woods, it seems, feels much the same way, though that may change if the youngster’s career trajectory continues on its current path. For now, it’s just mutual admiration.
“I enjoy playing with Rory,” said the 36-year-old, “and I hope he feels the same way about being in the same group as me. He's a great kid and it's great to be around him. What an amazing talent he really is. I just hope that everyone just lets him grow and develop as a player because it's going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid's career is going to pan out.”
McIlroy is one those who can go “ungodly low”, added Woods. “Once he gets rolling, he just makes birdie after birdie after birdie. Not afraid to keep trying to push it, to try to shoot lower scores. Some guys have a little governor on them and they'll back off, but there are a few players that just don't have that.”
Of course, Woods is on those, too, and plans to be for some time yet. Goals change over a career and his now include longevity - to best a generation and then move on to the next.
Jack (Nicklaus) “crossed generations”, added Woods, “and when you're a part of that conversation for the better part of 25 years, that's saying something. I was kind of hoping when I started off my career I'd be part of that conversation for that length of time.
“And right now, I think this is my 17th year on Tour, so I've been doing it a while. Hopefully I can continue doing it, something similar to what Vijay has done. Vijay has won, what, more tournaments than anyone else in his 40s, 20-plus events. That would be something nice to do starting four years from now.”
At last, some fighting talk.
Neither Pádraig Harrington nor Ian Poulter have any fight left in the race for an automatic Ryder Cup place and both have skipped the Johnnie Walker Championship in Gleneagles to play in Farmingdale, hoping for a performances that impresses European captain Jose Maria Olazabal enough to offer a wild-card pick.
Poulter seems to be assured of his, having tied for third at the PGA Championship and temporarily moved into the top 10.
Harrington has more work to do with Nicolas Colsaerts the favourite to get the nod from Olazabal. Events at Gleneagles may change things, however, and his hopes are not over yet.