Spieth not my only rival in Abu Dhabi - McIlroy


Rory McIlroy insists beating Jordan Spieth is not his primary focus as the superstar duo prepare to go head-to-head in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

World number one Spieth produced a stunning performance in his first outing of 2016 - finishing 30 under par to claim an emphatic triumph at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

He and four-time major winner McIlroy have been grouped together for the first two rounds in Abu Dhabi this week, together with another high-profile name in Rickie Fowler.

However, while much of the pre-tournament attention has centred on the duel between Spieth and McIlroy, the latter is not underestimating the other threats in a strong field.

Asked if was keen to lay down a marker against Spieth, McIlroy said: "I don't play the game to lay down markers at all. I want to try and play my best and I don't have to just beat Jordan Spieth this week, I have to beat another 142 guys.

"It would be foolish for me to think that's all my competition was and I think it would be an injustice to every other player that's in the field, because there's so much talent on tour. If you forget about everyone else that can win the tournament, it's not really smart to do that.

"I want to play well this week and if that means laying down a marker to someone, or the rest of the field, then that's great, but I just want to try and play my best and hopefully win this thing. I've had four runners-up [finishes] and been close a couple of times. Hopefully I can change that this week."

In addition to finishing second at this event four times in the last five seasons, McIlroy was also third in 2010 and fifth in 2009.

The Northern Irishman, who was pipped to victory by Gary Stal 12 months ago, said on Wednesday he felt "really refreshed", having enjoyed a seven-week break from competitive action following his World Tour Championship win in November.

And McIlroy is eager to cut Spieth's lead at the top of the rankings, adding: "I've made no secret about wanting to get back to that position, and I'd like to do it as quickly as possible. So it's definitely a motivation."

Stal will begin his title defence alongside Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer - a three-time winner at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

A prize of EUR409,686 is on offer for the winner of the lucrative tournament - the first European Tour event Spieth has chosen to play outside of the majors and World Golf Championships.