Westwood happy to consider fast- rising McIlroy his newest rival

lee westwood
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Lee Westwood says he doesn't pay much attention to his rivals.
PA Sport

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 | 5:54 p.m.

Lee Westwood will go head to head with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds of the Honda Classic this week as the PGA Tour begins its Florida Swing. But there is no escaping questions about a possible rivalry with Rory McIlroy.

The two Ryder Cup stars clashed in the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday, with McIlroy coming from 3-down to win on the 17th green.

"If I am going to have a rivalry, I would like it to be with Rory because he's arguably the hottest player on the planet at the moment," said Westwood on Wednesday. "I am willing to go along with that if you want to write about it.

"I've been around a long time now -- this is my 19th year out here -- and there's been various rivalries thrown at me during my career," he added. "I really don't pay much attention to them. You learn through playing golf for a long time that the only thing you can control is your own game.

"That's all I try to do," he explained. "I figure that if I'm going to keep playing well and getting in contention for tournaments, Rory's pretty much going to be in a similar position, so we're going to be playing together a lot.

"It's going to go backwards and forwards. One of us will get the better of the other, as I did in Dubai two weeks ago (Westwood came in second, McIlroy fifth), and then Rory got the better of me last week. That's just the way it is."

Westwood's loss to Mark Wilson in the Accenture consolation match means he cannot regain the No. 1 position this week, even with a win. With No. 1 Luke Donald taking the week off, however, McIlroy could take over the top spot with a victory.

But what matters more to both of them is proving their games are moving in the right direction with the Masters now little more than a month away.

Ian Poulter will join Woods and Westwood on the tee for the opening two days, and he has made the slowest start of all three this year. The 36-year-old took time out to await the birth of his fourth child, but managed only 45th and 50th in his first two events back and then was beaten by Korean Sang-moon Bae in the first round at Dove Mountain.

Poulter finds himself under scrutiny from the likes of TV commentators Nick Faldo and Bruce Critchley, and went on to his Twitter site to say: "I'm honored that people are talking that I'm not working hard enough on my game.

"I have to answer that question, though. I have never worked harder than I am right now -- not only on my game, but on my health and fitness," he added. "There are areas of my game which we have looked at and are making big improvements on. It's just a case of them coming together.

"This game has a funny way of showing hard work sometimes, but it's showing," he said. "Trust me, I will deliver like I promised in the Ryder Cup and like I always do."