Jordan Spieth is not gunning for a piece of Rory McIlroy but admits the Co Down man's fearless style could bring out the best him if they get the chance to go head to head in 2018.
The reigning Open champion tees off his sixth full season as a professional in the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii on Thursday, hoping to build momentum for a season that holds much promise with pal Justin Thomas leading a posse of exciting young guns, McIlroy hoping to rebound from an injury hit and winless 2017 and a healthy Tiger Woods returning to the fray.
"I think this year, 2018, the unknowns are very exciting right now," said the world No 2, who added the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale to major wins in the Masters and US Open in 2015.
"I think with the amount of depth and talent at a younger age mixed with the guys in their 30s that are playing No. 1 in the world, D.J. [Dustin Johnson], what is he? 32 or something [He’s 33]. Some other phenomenal players that you would call maybe in prime, right. And then, obviously, the major question, which is, what's it going to be like with Tiger coming back.
"So I think 2018, these unknowns are extremely exciting starting out and within the next six months it's a pretty special time to be a part of professional golf.
"I feel that way. I'll just set my goals like we do all the time and try and get out there and accomplish them year after year. And that's when I sit here every single year, I've got my goals for the year that by this time that I'm certainly set out to tackle.
"But I think the overall view off the course, at least from my own and a lot of us younger players, is very exciting going into 2018."
Asked if there were some players he wanted to beat more than others, the 24-year-old Texan admitted that a head to head with McIlroy would be a first worth experiencing.
"No, I don't think there's anybody I want to beat more than others," said Spieth, who will play with Thomas in the opening round. "I don't play to beat people. I play to try and finish first on the leaderboard. To be able to battle it out with somebody, Justin's [Thomas] certainly at the top of the list.
"I really haven't had any chances competing down the stretch with Rory. And I think I would really enjoy that because he plays so fearlessly and it would force me to play that way as well. I've had a lot of battles with D.J. and J Day. Very few with Justin, only a couple now. And really none with Rory. So I look forward to those kind of opportunities."
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 2 січня 2018 р.