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Sunday 17 December 2017

McIlroy bids to tame the beast

Rory teed up for US win but admits Match Play a lottery

FOR US Open champion Rory McIlroy, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship can offer the players beauty and something of the beast because of the sheer lottery of its format.

Matchplay is much more unpredictable than strokeplay and because of the extraordinary depth in the global game, anyone in this week's elite 64-man field is capable of winning the title.

Irishman McIlroy has gone out in the second round of the World Golf Championships event the past two years and knows how difficult it is to come from behind over 18 holes.

"I always look forward to this event but I definitely prefer to play matchplay over 36 holes," the 22-year-old told reporters at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. "In 18 holes of golf anything can happen.

"You can be five or six under par and lose or you can play mediocre and win. I don't mind losing a match if you don't play well... but when you feel like you have done all you can and still come up on the wrong side, it's pretty tough to take.

"That's the nature of this format, and that's why everyone enjoys watching it," added McIlroy, who had been drawn to play South African George Coetzee in today's opening round.

If results fall his way, McIlroy could become world number one by Monday three months short of his 23rd birthday.

"I'd rather just concentrate on trying to win tournaments and trying to improve as a player.

"If I happen to do that, then hopefully the ranking will take care of itself."

The week he turned professional in September 2007 McIlroy was 876th. Two weeks later, after finishing third at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, he was up to 308th.

He entered the top 200 in January 2008, the top 100 in October that year, the top 50 a month later and the top 20 the following February.

By the end of that season he had made it into the top 10 and his runaway US Open triumph last June took him into the top five. If not now, then surely soon, he will become the fourth European in a row to be king of the castle.

Consistency

This is his first event in America since the USPGA Championship last August -- the week he hurt himself hitting against a tree root -- and even if he has not won as often as he might have done since then his consistency has been staggering.

Including his victories at the Shanghai Masters and Hong Kong Open late last year, the US Open champion has had nine top-five finishes in his last 10 starts.

The only other event in that time was the Dubai World Championship. He was suffering from suspected dengue fever there and came 11th.

McIlroy desperately wants to get back to winning ways, however. He lost by one in Abu Dhabi after a "stupid" two-stroke penalty for brushing sand away off the green, then failed to build on a brilliant start in Dubai and dropped to fifth.

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