MIAMI, March 21 ― Rory McIlroy believes he will carry a psychological edge into his duel with Gary Woodland after being drawn to face the American in the opening round of the World Golf Championship-Dell Match Play tournament yesterday.
The charismatic Northern Irishman defeated Woodland in the final of the event two years ago when the tournament was staged in San Francisco.
The world number two, who revels in the match play format, thinks the memory of that emphatic 4&2 victory will stand him in good stead when he locks horns with Woodland at Austin Country Club in Texas this week.
“I certainly hope there is some sort of psychological advantage there,” said McIlroy.
“I did well the last time. I hope that's still in his mind. I think so, anytime you can get 1-up on a guy, I think it helps a little bit.”
McIlroy, who finished two off the lead in last weekend's Arnold Palmer Invitational, nevertheless said he was wary that Woodland's defeat in 2015 may make the American determined to settle a score.
“There's that revenge factor. He'll want to come back and try to get me for beating him a couple of years ago,” McIlroy acknowledged.
“I guess it could work both ways.”
As well as Woodland, McIlroy finds himself grouped alongside Argentina's Emiliano Grillo and Soren Kjeldsen for this week's tournament which tees off tomorrow.
Sixteen groups of four players will battle it out before advancing to a conventional straight knockout round over the weekend.
McIlroy is confident he can progress from the first round and go deep into the tournament.
“I'm happy with that draw,” he said. “I feel like I'm playing well enough. I feel like I can advance from that group and get myself into the weekend.”
Dreaming of Reed replay
McIlroy's match play duels for Europe in the Ryder Cup have rapidly become the stuff of legend, with an epic battle against Patrick Reed being one of the highlights of last year's final day at Hazeltine.
McIlroy lost on that occasion but not before producing some magnificent golf before a fiercely hostile crowd to reinforce his claim to be one of the best match play performers around.
McIlroy admitted he would relish the opportunity to have another crack at Reed should the two men meet again this week in Austin.
“It would be nice to play Patrick again,” McIlroy said. “There is some unfinished business there that I would like to clear up. But we'll see what happens. He's played well in match play, especially in the Ryder Cup.”
“Something I'd really look forward to, to try to beat him and -- beat him by more than one hole, just so I have a little bit of an edge.”
“Getting beaten on a single Sunday of Ryder Cup stings,” he said of the past loss. “But it was a pleasure to be a part of that match because of the people remember that for a long time.”
McIlroy believes the format brings out his best competitive qualities of “a ruthless streak, selfishness and pride.”
“I'm too proud to be beaten. I won't let anyone get up on me,” McIlroy said. “I sort of think too much of myself to let anyone do that to me.
“So that's why I've always enjoyed match play because if you do get yourself into a bit of a dogfight out there, it's something I've always quite enjoyed.” ― AFP