WGC-CA Championship Preview

Rory McIlroy has another chance to partner the player he calls “the second biggest draw in golf” on Thursday and Friday.

The 20-year-old Northern Irishman has been paired with defending champion Phil Mickelson in the opening two rounds of the CA world championship in Miami.

As for the biggest draw in golf – Tiger Woods, of course – more people are starting to think that he will be back in two weeks’ time at the “behind-closed-doors” Tavistock Cup and then the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Both events are in Orlando, home to the world number one and where he has been practising since coming out of a sex addiction clinic.

“It’s certainly going to be interesting to see not just how he plays, but how he handles the whole situation,” stated McIlroy.

“I think everyone is excited to see him get back out onto the golf course and play golf.

“From the reports I’ve heard he seems to be swinging it well and as good as he ever was.

“It will be exciting the next few weeks, whenever he comes back. I know a lot of people are saying Tavistock or Bay Hill. It would be nice to see him back.”

In the meantime McIlroy is keen to get back to winning ways as soon as he can – and as a means to that end he has spent time not only with American sports psychologist Bob Rotella, but also Jack Nicklaus.

A meeting was arranged for him at last week’s Honda Classic, where Nicklaus acts as tournament host.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said the youngster, who has climbed into the world’s top 10 despite his only professional victory remaining last February’s Dubai Desert Classic.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Bob was to try to finish the job off a bit more and be a more clinical.

“Jack’s been the best at winning (Woods is still four short of Nicklaus’s 18 majors) and was probably the most clinical of them all.

“It was great to sit down and talk with him and see his approach to winning, what went through his head whenever he was in contention and what things he might have done differently to other people.

“It was probably the best 90 minutes I’ve spent in a long time.

“He said the best ever tournament he played he didn’t win – The Open in ’77 (Tom Watson beat him) – and there were other times where he didn’t play his best, but got the job done.

“One of the biggest things I took from it was patience. Just learn to wait and learn to bide your time and know that if you believe in yourself it will happen.

“He had a lot more majors handed to him than he went out and won.”

McIlroy last played with Mickelson in Shanghai in November and commented: “I think we enjoyed each other’s company.

“I really like the way he approaches the game. It’s probably quite similar to myself – quite aggressive and goes for shots that some people might not.

“I think it depends what type of mind you have. If you’ve got a more analytical sort of mind you’ll probably play a little more conservative.

“The guys who keep it simple are probably the guys that will hit driver more and try to make the more aggressive approach.”

The World Golf Championship series have been going since 1999 and while Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson and most recently Ian Poulter have won the Match Play title only Clarke has won one of the stroke play events.

In a field of just 68 this week, however, there are 24 Europeans taking part.

Poulter beat Paul Casey in the final in Tucson three weeks ago to put them fifth and sixth respectively on the world rankings, but Lee Westwood remains just ahead of them.

Last season’s European number one finished ninth on Sunday – McIlroy was 40th, Casey fourth – but Justin Rose was the top European in third spot and despite that has failed to make it into this week’s tournament.

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