Singapore: World number one Rory McIlroy faces no problems playing with friends, who become his rivals on a golf course.
McIlroy, who is on the verge of becoming No. 1 on the Money List in both United States and Europe, is having the best year of his young career.
Less than a fortnight ago, he beat Tiger Woods in a one-on-one clash in China. Yet, he finds no clash between his rivalry and growing friendship with Tiger Woods.
"No, not at all. I never go into a tournament going into to a beat a player, I`m trying to play the golf course as best I can. There`s going to be times when I`m going to be up against friends, you don`t think about it, you`re trying to play the best golf you can," he said.
McIlroy, returns to Singapore for the first time since 2008. That was the year India`s Jeev Milkha Singh won the title and McIlroy, then in only his second year as a pro ? but his first full season - finished fourth. And he was yet to record his maiden professional.
Four years on, McIlroy is the number one golfer in the world and considered the hottest property in the sport. He is also likely to top the Money List on both sides of the `pond` (Atlantic Ocean).
So, quite naturally he generated huge interest with discussions on how he manages his time, his girlfriend (tennis star Caroline Wozniacki), his rivalry and friendship with Tiger Woods, equipment change and return to Singapore after four years.
"I think one of the biggest things for me over the past couple of years is because it (the Singapore Open) was two courses," said McIlroy of the tournament that was played on two courses (Serapong and Tanjong) the last three years.
"Having it back to one course made it more appealing. I really enjoyed my time in Singapore here last time. I played, really enjoyed the golf course, came in the top five."
"It`s somewhere I`ve always wanted to come back to, and it`s back to one course. So (let`s) see if I can do a little bit better than last time," McIlroy said.
Speaking about the course in relation to the last time he played here, McIlroy said, "It`s a great golf course, I really enjoyed it in 2008. They made a few changes, the sixth hole, they added a couple of bunkers, a more challenging tee shot, apart from that I didn`t really see many other changes.
"The ground isn`t as firm as in 2008, hopefully as the week goes on and there`s not that much rain we can get it a little firm as we go into the week."
McIlroy is coming off a win over Tiger in a two-man `duel` in China.
"It was good fun, a very interesting day. We had a lot of fun up there and we did play pretty well, I shot five-under to his 4, it was a pretty tight match, we both could have shot a bit more," he said.
Being number one has also brought a lot of changes in his life.
"Managing time is a very important part of my life, it`s something I learnt to do a little bit better last year after US Open in 2011, people want you to do more things and you have to learn how to say no.
"You have to say no and you have to be selfish sometimes and look after yourself, it doesn`t make you a bad person," he said.
On how the year has been, he said, "It`s been a very successful year. Winning my first major championship in 2011 was a huge milestone, a huge stepping stone in my career and I want to follow up next season with another major championship. I`ve achieved all the goals I wanted to this year."
Invariably the interaction also veered towards his Wozniacki. He said watching her play tennis helps him `escape` the pressure.
"It always does (help). I need those weeks where I can just completely escape from this, from my life. I forget where I am, what I do. Sometimes you need to step away from it. Spending time with Caroline helps me to do that."