Sydney: World number one Rory McIlroy returns to defend his Australian Open title this week with Adam Scott itching for revenge after last year`s final hole anguish.
The Northern Irishman is coming off a stellar year and heads into the Sydney tournament as Europe`s top player for the second time in three years.
McIlroy won two majors (the British Open and the US PGA Championship), a World Golf Championship title (WGC-Bridgestone) and the flagship event of the European Tour (BMW PGA Championship) to comfortably finish the season at the summit of the world rankings.
His return to form kicked off at the Australian Open last year, when he narrowly edged Scott for his first tournament win of 2013.
"I`m really looking forward to defending my Australian Open title," McIlroy said.
"I think I was four shots behind Adam going into the weekend and he was coming off two wins and he was the Masters champion.
"So to battle with him for 36 holes and come out on top, I did take a lot from that victory.
"It was my one and only victory from 2013, but it ended the year for me on a high and it gave me momentum going into 2014."
This week`s event has been billed as one versus two, but Scott lost his world number two ranking to Henrik Stenson last weekend after the Swede successfully defended his DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Scott looked destined to capture the `Big Three` of Australian golf in 2013 after winning the Australian PGA and Australian Masters titles when he was one shot clear coming to the final hole of the Australian Open at Royal Sydney.
But he sent his second shot over the back of the green and took three shots to get down for a bogey while McIlroy holed out for a birdie to win by a stroke.
"I`ve still got a thorn in my side about the Australian Open last year so it will be fun to have another crack at that," Scott said."Rory`s taken his game up a notch and that`s inspired me to work harder because he`s got to have more motivation than ever for what`s upcoming for him next year," Scott said.
"He`s got a chance to complete things in a career that only so few have done, so he`s going to be really motivated.
"If my competition is really motivated and that good then I`m going to have to work really hard as well, so if you keep pushing each other along that`s how everyone gets better and better."
McIlroy is favourite this time, coming off three joint runner-up finishes and looking to join golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the only overseas players to win back-to-back Australian Open titles.
"The Australian course is a little more generous off the tee than Royal Sydney was last year, but it`s very tricky around the greens, there`s a lot of run-offs, it`s a typical Jack Nicklaus-designed course with a lot of humps and bumps in the greens," McIlroy said.
But Scott believes his game is better suited to The Australian course after his near-miss at the Australian Masters in Melbourne last week.
"It`s a long, tough, demanding golf course and that suits me," said Scott, who has only played a couple of rounds at the course.
"If I get to hit the driver a bit more then it`s certainly to my advantage."
US Masters runner-up Jordan Spieth, 21, is paired with Scott for the opening two rounds and looking for a big finish to a great year.
"He`s (Scott) a guy that when I`m paired with him I`m excited, because I did grow up idolising him and his game," Spieth said.
"It`s been an incredible year and one that it`s really nice to cap off here."