Los Angeles (AFP) – Rory McIlroy is bracing for the bustle that comes with a Tiger Woods pairing, but said the chance to play with a golfer he still considers a hero is worth it.
“I wouldn’t have minded a nice quiet couple of days, Thursday, Friday,” McIlroy admitted, but added: “Anytime you have a chance to play in a group like that you relish it and embrace it.”
McIlroy and Woods will tee it up with Justin Thomas — a five-time winner on the US PGA Tour last season — in the first and second rounds of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club.
For 14-time major champion Woods, it’s the next step in a return from injury that he hopes will soon see him contending again.
McIlroy, owner of four major titles, had his own injury troubles last year and is out to end a 16-month victory drought.
He made his Stateside debut last week at Pebble Beach, where a balky putter saw him miss the cut by two strokes.
“I had a bit of wobble on the greens on Friday, but I didn’t put that down to anything more than just surfaces weren’t ideal and I let it get into my head a little bit,” McIlroy said.
He visited manufacturer TaylorMade in Carlsbad, California, on Monday, where he picked up a new putter.
“The great thing about golf, every week you start everyone’s level again and you get to go again and work on things,” said McIlroy, who moved back into the top 10 in the world rankings after a runner-up finish in the Dubai Desert Classic in January.
“I still view the start of the season to be quite good for me in terms of what I’ve done and the progress I’ve made on my game.
“Obviously, results wise last week at least wasn’t what I wanted, but I still saw a lot of good stuff in there.”
He’ll be hoping it’s on display again amid the hoopla surrounding Woods — who will draw massive, often restless galleries.
While the constant movement and noise can be a distraction, McIlroy said he didn’t mind.
“I would rather be in this group than not,” McIlroy said. “Whenever you get a chance to play alongside one of your heroes it’s always nice.”