Don’t write off Rory – or Lee or Luke

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It won’t be easy for Rory McIlroy to bring his A-game to this week’s WGC-Cadillac championship.

It won’t be easy for Rory McIlroy to bring his A-game to this week’s WGC-Cadillac championship.

Not after finishing runner up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, winning the Honda Classic a week later and being feted around the world as the new king of the World Rankings list

At 22 McIlroy is not likely to be physically exhausted – even after playing six gruelling rounds of match play in Arizona a week before coming through in Florida, holding out against one of the most ferocious final-round charges ever made by Tiger Woods and winning both the Honda Classic and the World No 1 ranking crown.

But it would be surprising indeed if he isn’t a little mentally jaded. Being in contention for long spells can bring a lot of stress and a shortage of focus with it.

So can the celebrations that followed his outstanding deed.

Seems, though, that if anything, his heroics at the PGA National Golf Club last week have buoyed him no end and that in not allowing himself to be haunted by his nightmare, final round in the Masters last year, and winning despite the bitter experience, it will be more than enough to have recharged his mental batteries by the time he tees off in Miami on Thursday.

McIlroy would dearly love to underline his news status as the World No 1 with a second consecutive win this week, but he won’t be able to do it if he is unable to produce another solid gold performance, for coming at him will be two hungry Englishmen who’ll both be looking to snatch back the World No 1 crown that each have held at one time or another during the past couple of years.

Lee Westwood won it from Tiger Woods in October 2010, but lost it and won it back from Martin Kaymer over the next several months.

He lost it for a second time to Luke Donald who in turn held on to it for 40 weeks before McIlroy stepped up and relieved him of it on Sunday

And hankering to get it back, Westwood and Donald both know that victory for either over the tough, 7334 yard, Blue Monster course at Doral would give them a chance to usurp McIlroy, depending on how the Northern Irishman fares.

If Donald wins he would return to No 1, irrespective of where McIlroy finishes. If Westwood wins he will automatically pass Donald and will get back to No 1 if McIlroy finishes lower than sole third place.

Donald already has one WGC title to his name, after winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last year, while Westwood, like McIlroy, continues his quest for a first, having finished runner up on three occasions, including in this event in 2000 when he was pipped by Canada’s Mike Weir..

Westwood, who will this week become the first person to compete in 40 WGC events, has been in excellent form.

After reaching the semi-finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago, he fired a magnificent closing 63 in last week’s Honda Classic to finish fourth, a shot back from Woods and three off the pace.

Westwood and Donald, won’t be the only top-rankers gunning to win an event rich in rankings points and prize money, however.

Another former World No 1 heading to Doral full of confidence is the American icon Tiger Woods, whose final round 62 to finish joint runner-up behind McIlroy last week suggested he could mount a serious challenge for a title he has already won on a record six occasions.

Woods’ compatriot Nick Watney, the defending champion after finishing two shots clear of Dustin Johnson 12 months ago, is back again and also in the field is Hunter Mahan who looked so strong and confident on his way to winning the Accenture Match Play.

World Number Four Martin Kaymer, of Germany, is another who will almost certainly come to the Blue Monster believing he has what it takes to win here and add the WGC-Cadillac Championship title to the WGC-HSBC Champions he won in China at the end of last season

And only a month ahead of his defence of the Masters title in the first major of the year, South African Charl Schwartzel has been showing signs that he is approaching the kind of form that won him his first Green Jacket. At the weekend he finishing tied fifth at PGA National.

Englishman Paul Casey, returning to action for the first time this season after dislocated his shoulder in a skiing accident just before Christmas is an unknown factor, but you can never underestimate him

He said: “I’ve only missed five tournaments, which isn’t a massive amount in the grand scheme of things. So in some ways I’ve been quite lucky, and I’m now looking forward to getting out there and playing some competitive golf again because I’ve really missed it.”

Casey’s compatriot Ian Poulter, the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Champion, is hoping he has recovered from pneumonia in time to take his place in the field for the US$8.5million event.

Poulter, who was second behind Woods in 2006, is one of only four Europeans who have finished runner up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The others are Miguel Angel Jiménez (1999), Westwood (2000) and Thomas Björn (2004).

The European Tour contingent includes six players making their debuts in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. They are Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Nicolas Colsaerts, Branden Grace, Jbe’ Kruger, Alexander Noren and Robert Rock.

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