“If I’m going to have a rivalry, I would like it to be with Rory [McIlroy],” said Lee Westwood prior to this week’s Honda Classic in Florida. Tensions have been rising between the pair since McIlroy left ISM where they were both managed by Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler.
McIlroy came from three down to beat Westwood at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship before going on to lose to Hunter Mahan in the final last week, and their personal duel was the focus of attention ahead of this week’s action on the PGA Tour where they are both teeing it up again.
Westwood may have crossed the line when he said that the Ulsterman did have a “pull hook in his bag” with reference to his errant drive on the back nine of The Masters last year, but since that time the verbals have been no more than you’d expect when the stakes are so high.
From what we can gather both players clearly have the utmost of respect for one another, and as golf fans we are in for a treat in the coming seasons for great sporting rivalries are exactly what’s needed to keep us coming back for more.
In seasons gone by these competitive rivalries have been sadly missing, certainly at the upper echelons of the game. Even when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were rumoured not to be the best of friends, it was impossible to be totally enthralled by their Sunday afternoon battles every time Mickelson flashed his teeth and beamed at his adoring fans.
Nevertheless, it was a rivalry that was always simmering and when Mickelson won his first Major at The Masters in 2004 his American Ryder Cup ‘teammate’ knew he wasn’t about to carry on getting things all his own way on Sunday afternoons. When Mickelson entered the Major’s winners’ circle that rivalry intensified.
McIlroy now has that first Major and, as we well know, Westwood is still searching for his. It only adds to what is fast becoming a fascinating battle of immense talents. It has to be good for the game, not to mention the European Tour.