Golf,USA,3-2011:While Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald match up in Florida, it is the clash between McIlroy and Tiger Woods that many are awaiting.
The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, who also spiced things up between the pair before the Ryder Cup, reckons Woods is playing “like an ordinary golfer” at the moment and doubts whether he will ever dominate the sport again.
While the former world number one is practising at home in preparation for next week’s world championship in Miami, McIlroy and Donald are in Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic.
“I wasn’t playing against Tiger Woods when he had that aura – I was watching on TV!” wrote McIlroy on the American website golf.com.
“I remember getting nervous when I first met him. I was 15. There was a presence about him. There still is to some extent, but when you’re on the golf course you simply block it out.
“But Tiger is not playing as well as he was even a couple of years ago, never mind going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he was at his best.
“I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did. He never seemed like he would make a mistake.
“It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer.”
Woods has dropped from two to five in the world already this season and McIlroy is now only three places below him.
Donald, of course, leapfrogged both of them with his victory in Tucson on Sunday and he returns to an event he won in 2006.
Lee Westwood, meanwhile, needs a top-three finish this weekend to regain the number one spot from Martin Kaymer, another on a week off.
Westwood was never likely to go down the same road as McIlroy when asked to comment about his stablemate’s comments.
“That’s the answer a 21-year-old would give – 37-year-olds are a little wiser,” he stated.
“Having played with Tiger since 1997 there’s an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle – and he’s the classiest player I’ve ever played with.
“I’d be wise enough not to write him off. I’ve seen him play poorly and win – he doesn’t necessarily have to get back to where he was.”