Hong Kong: Luke Donald on Monday tipped world number one Rory McIlroy to have the upper hand in a potentially mouthwatering battle for supremacy with US legend Tiger Woods over the coming years.
McIlroy, 23, has won two majors in as many years and is viewed by many as the heir apparent to the 36-year-old Woods, who won the last of his 14 majors at the US Open in 2008.
Woods said last week he was looking forward to a “decade” of battles with the Northern Irishman, who beat the American world number two on Monday at the “Duel at Jinsha Lake” exhibition match in Shanghai.
“Rory has the upper hand,” said world number three Donald, adding that Woods still had many years left in him.
“They’re phenomenal. They have star power,” the English golfer said at a media event for the HSBC Champions 2012, which will be played at Mission Hills in southern China from November 1-4.
Donald added that McIlroy had a good chance of matching his own unique feat of topping both the US and European money lists in the same year.
“Rory is emulating what I did last year... congratulations to him if he pulls it off.”
McIlroy’s seemingly unstoppable rise to the top contrasts with Woods’s own shaky path in recent years.
The American’s victory at his last major came shortly before his career nosedived amid a scandal surrounding his private life which saw the American drop out of the top 50.
However, three PGA Tour wins this year have propelled him back up the rankings.
South African Ernie Els, who will also be playing at the HSBC Champions 2012, said McIlroy and Woods were evenly matched.
“Tiger’s got all the experience in the world and Rory’s got all the power in the world right now, he’s got all the momentum,” the four-time major champion said.
“They’re really stirring the pot between the two of them and I think it’s good for golf.”
Flamboyant English golfer Ian Poulter said that the rivalry would generate worldwide interest in the sport.
“It’s an interesting rivalry that will go on for a long time,” Poulter said.