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Golf | World Golf Championships

Rory McIlroy © Gallo Images

McIlroy counts on 'little things' with No 1 on horizon



Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy says he can't afford to focus on a possible return to world No 1 as he prepares for this week's WGC-Dell Match Play.

McIlroy said he won't even allow himself to ponder the possibility of a last-16 clash with Tiger Woods, preferring to concentrate on the pool matches he must get through to set up a possible meeting with the 14-time major champion.

"There's a long way to go," McIlroy told reporters in Austin, Texas, where the event tees off on Wednesday.

McIlroy will open against big-hitting American Luke List, in a group that also includes England's Matthew Fitzpatrick and South African Justin Harding.

McIlroy said that he'd texted Fitzpatrick with a simple aim when he saw they were in the same group: "let’s make sure we both have something to play for when we play each other in the last pool game on Friday," McIlroy told him. "That's honestly as far as I've thought ahead."

McIlroy, a four-time major champion coming off a victory at the Players Championship two weeks ago, could jump from fourth back to No 1 in the world with a victory – if current No 1 Dustin Johnson fails to reach the semifinals and Justin Rose doesn't make it to the semis.

McIlroy won all three of his round-robin pool matches on the way to the 2015 title, but bowed out in pool play the last two years and said he therefore wouldn't look further ahead.

"That's the first step in the process and if I win seven matches this week, then awesome. But, again, winning tournaments, getting No 1, all those accolades, it's a by-product of doing all the little things right," he said.

"Step by step they will add up to all that stuff that other people find important."

Woods is a three-time winner of the WGC Match Play, but hasn't played it since 2013 when all rounds were knockout rounds.

"This'll be a little different," he said of the round-robin format, which will send the winner from each of 16 four-man groups through to the knockout stage.

"I guess you can halve a match and still move on. I don't really know the intricacies of it," Woods said, but added: "It's not real complicated, play well and take care of the guy in front of me."

Woods, who arrived Monday and played nine holes at Austin Country Club, opens the Dell Technologies Match Play against Aaron Wise, an NCAA champion from Oregon and the PGA Tour rookie of the year.

Wise will be the 21st player who had never played with Woods since he returned from back surgeries that kept him out of golf for most of two years.

Woods will play Wise on Wednesday, with matches against fellow Americans Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay to follow.

GROUPS

GROUP 1
Dustin Johnson
Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
Branden Grace (RSA)
Chez Reavie

GROUP 2
Justin Rose (ENG)
Gary Woodland
Eddie Pepperell (ENG)
Emiliano Grillo (ARG)

GROUP 3
Brooks Koepka
Alex Noren (SWE)
Li Haotong (CHN)
Tom Lewis (ENG)

GROUP 4
Rory McIlroy (NIR)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG)
Justin Harding (RSA)
Luke List

GROUP 5
Justin Thomas
Keegan Bradley
Matt Wallace (ENG)
Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN)

GROUP 6
Bryson DeChambeau
Marc Leishman (AUS)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)
Russell Knox (SCO)

GROUP 7
Francesco Molinari (ITA)
Webb Simpson
Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)
Satoshi Kodaira (JPN)

GROUP 8
Jon Rahm (ESP)
Matt Kuchar
J.B. Holmes
Kim Si-woo (KOR)

GROUP 9
Xander Schauffele
Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP)
Tyrell Hatton (ENG)
Lee Westwood (ENG)

GROUP 10
Paul Casey (ENG)
Cameron Smith (AUS)
Charles Howell III
Abraham Ancer (MEX)

GROUP 11
Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)
Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
Kyle Stanley
An Byeong-hun (KOR)

GROUP 12
Jason Day (AUS)
Phil Mickelson
Henrik Stenson (SWE)
Jim Furyk

GROUP 13
Tiger Woods
Patrick Cantlay
Brandt Snedeker
Aaron Wise

GROUP 14
Tony Finau
Ian Poulter (ENG)
Kevin Kisner
Keith Mitchell

GROUP 15
Bubba Watson
Jordan Spieth
Billy Horschel
Kevin Na

GROUP 16
Patrick Reed
Sergio Garcia (ESP)
Shane Lowry (IRL)
Andrew Putnam



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