Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 4/9/13

During Tiger Woods‘ absence from golf’s winner’s circle, young Irishman Rory McIlroy thoroughly arrived on the scene, capturing a couple majors and establishing himself as the sport’s next big thing. Now, with Woods back in form and McIlroy coming off a second-place finish at last week’s Texas Open, many are hoping that this week’s Masters tournament sets the stage for a rivalry years in the making. However, to hear McIlroy talk about it, he doesn’t think he and Woods are much of rivals, pointing to Woods’ impressive career accomplishments. “I don’t see myself a rival to Tiger or to anyone,” said McIlroy on Tuesday before a practice round at Augusta. “When you speak of rivals, you tend to put rivals who have had similar success. He’s got 77 PGA Tour events. I’ve got six. He’s got 14 majors. I’ve got two. “If I saw myself a rival to Tiger, I wouldn’t really be doing him much justice.” However, Woods himself seems to have a different opinion. Taking the opportunity to list some of his rivals over the years (Notably absent are Bob May and Rocco Mediate, two journeyman who easily gave Woods his biggest challenges in individual tournaments, at the 2000 PGA Championship and 2008 US Open, respectively.), Woods says that he very much puts McIlroy among them. “Over the course of my career I’ve had a few,” said Woods. “Certainly Rory is this generation. I’ve had Phil [Mickelson] and Vijay [Singh] and Ernie [Els] and David [Duval] for a number of years. Now Rory is the leading [rival] of this younger generation. So, yes, definitely.” While Mickelson may take issue with not being considered a current rival, most eyes will certainly be on Woods and McIlroy this week as they tackle Allister MacKenzie‘s classic design in Georgia.

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