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Wisecracking Woods and McIlroy look like best buddies
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy provided a taste of what might be to come in 2012 and beyond as the two rivals teased and wisecracked their way round the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Saturday.
January 29, 2012 10:55 by Reuters
Former world number one Woods, his game rejuvenated after a spell in the doldrums, partnered third-ranked Briton McIlroy for the fourth day running at the Abu Dhabi Championship and the pair looked like best buddies.
“We had a great time today, it was a lot of fun,” said the 36-year-old American after shooting a third-round 66 to move into a tie for the lead on 11-under 205 with Britain’s Robert Rock (66).
“I’ve played with Rory four days in a row because we also played a practice round together on Wednesday. It’ll be nice to get rid of him now,” joked Woods.
The duo appeared to thoroughly enjoy each others’ company and an incident at the par-three seventh hole summed up the friendship that has developed this week.
Woods delivered a sumptuous tee shot to eight feet but the 22-year-old Northern Irishman responded with an even better effort that finished two inches from the cup.
Both players smiled as they walked off the tee side by side, with McIlroy giving his partner a playful nudge with his elbow.
The US Open champion has the golf game to carry him to the top of the rankings sooner rather than later and if Woods’s impressive performance this week is any guide, the two men will be partnering each other plenty of times in the years to come.
Woods will have to keep a watchful eye on McIlroy in the final round in Abu Dhabi, with the youngster tucked in two shots off the pace on 207.
McIlroy was more relaxed on Saturday after an erratic display 24 hours earlier that contained six birdies, a pair of double-bogeys and two bogeys.
“That was a lot better today,” he said after carding a 68. “I was able to eliminate the mistakes and I also made five birdies.
“I drove the ball better, hit a lot of great iron shots and felt my putting was pretty good too.
“Tomorrow I just need to concentrate on trying to hit the ball in the fairway to give myself plenty of opportunities and put a bit of pressure on the guys in front.”
Most of the crowds will be following the final match involving Woods, Rock and Swede Peter Hanson (207) on Sunday.
“It’s been great fun playing with Tiger and I told him no one would be following me tomorrow now,” said McIlroy, laughing.
“It will be a little bit different. The crowds around us have been great this week and obviously Tiger will have most of them with him tomorrow so maybe I can go along quietly about my business and pick up a few shots.” (Writing by Tony Jimenez in London, editing by Clare Fallon) *image from bettor.com