Philadelphia, PA – They were born less than six months apart and own a combined four PGA Tour victories.
But are Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy really rivals?
Fowler earned his first PGA Tour win last Sunday when he beat McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Fowler and McIlroy are both 23 years old and have battled face-to-face a total of TWO times. The second battle was last weekend at Quail Hollow. The first was at the Walker Cup in 2007, where the squared off in an alternate shot match.
Fowler spoke of his first meeting with McIlroy in his Tuesday press conference: "The first time I met him, I hadn't really heard a whole lot about him prior to that. I knew he was one of the top players, and once I got over there, I knew he was kind of their stud on the team.
"Their team, as well as, ours was fairly loaded. I didn't play any individual matches against him, I played alternate shot against him; Billy Horschel and I versus him and Johnny Caldwell, which we came out on top, which was nice."
If your checking the tote board, that's Fowler 2, McIlroy 0.
"You've got a player like Rickie who's a great player who's just won," McIlroy said, "and even he said last week that it is hard to win. But I think the more you do win, the easier it becomes. I think for me if I was a golf fan, I'd like to see a rivalry."
No offense to McIlroy, but whatever they have between them is far from a rivalry.
Rivalries in golf include heavyweights like Hogan-Snead, Nicklaus-Palmer and Woods-Mickelson.
McIlroy-Fowler might not crack the top 100, maybe not even the top 200, if you were to put together a list of all-time golf rivalries. Why?
Because they are 23 and have four wins between them. And Fowler concurs.
"I know he wants to beat me just as bad as I want to beat him," he said Tuesday. "But I think that both him and I would have to kind of run away and play really well just for it to be a rivalry between the two of us. There's a lot of really good young players right now, and to count any one of them out of a rivalry would be somewhat unfair to them."
Some might say this is like Tiger and Phil early in their rivalry, but that was really one-sided for a long time. Though Mickelson has four majors, he is still 10 behind Woods, while Woods nearly doubles Mickelson in PGA Tour titles, 72-40.
McIlroy has the early lead over Fowler in majors, 1-0, and has ascended to the top spot in the world rankings.
Let's not jump to conclusions and call these two rivals. They're hardly having a tug-o-war at this point.
BIG WEEK FOR TIGER?
Woods has done the unexpected many times before. Could this weekend be another one of those?
Just when most people count him out, that seems to be when Woods excels the most. And looking at his recent record and his record at the TPC Sawgrass, it would be easy not to give him a chance this weekend at the Players Championship.
In his 14 previous starts, Woods has a lone win in 2001 and four top-10 finishes.
Not only is Woods coming off back-to-back withdrawals at the Players Championship, he is coming off his worst two starts of the season.
Woods tied for 40th at the Masters, where he entered as one of the favorites after winning at Bay Hill. He followed that poor performance with a missed cut at Quail Hollow last week.
After posting six straight rounds under par, Woods has posted a score in red figures in one of his last six rounds.
The critics have been all over Woods and his swing coach Sean Foley. The louder they get, the more likely Woods does well this week.
When you least expect it, Woods will pounce. It's the Tiger in him.
* Mike Kern in the Philadelphia Daily News had a fun story Wednesday about Harry Scott, who is in the process of playing golf in all 50 states in 50 days. Scott is 78 by the way. Good luck, Harry!
* If you missed the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on Monday, you missed plenty of good stories. The Voice of Golf, Peter Alliss, had the best conclusion to a speech. I won't spoil the speech here, but let's just say he gives an old teacher a one-finger salute.