Tiger Woods And Rory McIlroy Say They Are Friends And Opponents

Category: Sports / Jan 15, 2013 12:29PM EDT
This week's Abu Dhabi Championship is billed as a 'desert duel' between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, but the American says their rivalry is new and has yet to compare to past on-course battles. Fourteen-times major winner Woods believes it will take time to develop the same sort of rivalry with world number one McIlroy that he has experienced with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. "Over the course of my career I've gone head-to-head against, I think, Ernie and Vijay the most over the course of my career. And that's happened what, over 17 years, something like that, 16 or 17 years that we've been going at it like that, but it takes time," the former world number one told reporters at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Tuesday. While Woods was keen to play down the competitive nature of his rivalry with McIlroy, the duo have clearly built a strong bond since they were paired together in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago. "It started here, you know, last year. I played, I played the front nine with him (in practice) on the Tuesday and I think we were paired together on the first three days. So it -- our relationship certainly has grown since then, said the 37-year-old. "Yeah, we've certainly hit it off and our relationship has grown and our friendship's gotten better." World number two Woods and McIlroy will again play together in the opening round of this year's tournament, along with triple former Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer, on Thursday. McIlroy also spoke of the friendship he had forged with Woods. "(We've) Spent more time together, which, which started here last year, just because we have, you know, been paired in tournaments and if not been paired, you know, we've been been, you know, in tee times that are close to each other and seen each other on the range a lot or whatever and it's been great, it's been great to get to know him. You know before, this time last year, you know, we would say 'hello' in passing, but not really anything else," said the Northern Irishman. "We get on really well, we share the same interests, we are both, you know, big sports fans and you know that's sort of, the bulk of our conversations is about sports," said McIlroy. McIlroy joined Woods in the Nike stable on Monday after signing a new deal with the U.S. sportswear firm that, according to media reports, will be worth $250 million over 10 years.