McIlroy plays down Woods, No.1 return ahead of Dell

Rory McIlroy has played down a possible last-16 Texas showdown with Tiger Woods should both players emerge from the round robin stages in the WGC – Dell Technologies Match-Play starting tonight.

McIlroy will first lineup against American Luke List in one of 32 opening matches in the $10,250,000 event.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy last won the WGC title in 2015 (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

On Thursday, the Ulsterman will then face South African Justin Harding, who captured the Qatar Masters earlier on St. Patrick’s Day when McIlroy landed victory in the Players Championship.

McIlroy, who won the event in 2015, then squares-up for the second time in three weeks on Friday against good friend Matthew Fitzpatrick after the duo were out in the last match on the final day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But while the golf world would relish a McIlroy vs Woods Saturday shootout, McIlroy is naturally staying more focussed on his match against the World No. 67 ranked List

“I think I have played alongside Luke a few times on Tour but there is a long way to go before I can think about playing Tiger,” said McIlroy.

“I saw that Fitz (Matthew Fitzpatrick) is in my group and he and I have become pretty close over the last couple of years living down in Jupiter, and practicing a bit together.

“I texted him last night and said ‘let’s just make sure we have something to play for on Friday’, so that’s as far as I have thought ahead this week.”

If McIlroy does get past the round robin stage and also past Woods, he then has three more matches to make the final, and if he does go on to capture a second Tour title in as many events, then McIlroy could go back to World No. 1.

He was last on top of the rankings in finishing 17th in his defence at the 2015 PGA Championship but again, McIlroy was staying in the present.

“No, I’m not thinking about going back to No. 1 and all I am thinking about is my match tomorrow and that is something I have not been able to do the last couple of years,” he said.

“I went out last year against Peter Uihlein and was beaten on the first day and also lost my first match the year before against Soren Kjeldsen, so I have been on the wrong side of that the last few years.”

“So, winning my match on Wednesday is the first step in the process and if I do win seven matches this week, that would be awesome.”

“I feel like I am doing the little things right and step-by-step they will add up to all that stuff other people find important.”

Woods is a former three-time match-player winner but has not qualified for the event since losing out in a first match to England’s David Howell in 2013 but under the old format that also saw Shane Lowry humble McIlroy that same year in Arizona.

Woods tees-up in round one against compatriot, Aaron Wise and then faces Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay.