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English duo dismiss talk of Masters being two-horse race

By Simon Evans

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Talk of the Masters being a battle between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy is "naive," according to top-ranked Englishmen Luke Donald and Lee Westwood who feel the year's first major is far more open.

Some media are calling the April 5-8 event a two-man game in a bid to build up a rivalry between 14-times major winner Woods and the precocious young McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion who many consider the long-term successor to Woods.

"Rory has never won here, Tiger has not won here since 2005. So I think everybody in this room would have to be naive to think it was a two-horse race wouldn't they?" world number three Westwood said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"There's more. I think Phil (Mickelson) might have a little bit of something to say about that; Luke might; I might."

Woods's five-stroke win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational nine days ago ended his 30-month winless streak on the PGA Tour and raised the prospect of him challenging for a fifth win at Augusta National.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who was briefly world number one after winning the Honda Classic last month, became one of the most popular figures in the game after a U.S. Open triumph last year that came two months after squandering a four-shot lead in the final round of the Masters.

Donald, who regained the world number one spot from McIlroy when he won last month's Transitions Championship, also played down talk of the Masters being purely a showdown between Woods and 22-year-old McIlroy.

"Everyone wants to make that kind of rivalry, and obviously those two guys garner the most attention right now," said Donald, who became the first player to win the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic last year.

"It's a little naive to say that they are the only two that have a chance to win around here. Just in the last, what, three or four years of majors, I don't think there's been a multiple winner.

"So obviously without one or two people dominating, I think there's a chance for a lot of people to win this week."

Neither Westwood nor Donald have won a major championship but both feel they are among a large group of players who have a chance of sliding into the winner's green jacket on Sunday.

"You can probably narrow it down to 30 people whose games are suited. Some people are not going to be long enough here, some people won't be on their game this week. So you could probably pick out 30 guys," said Westwood.

McIlroy, while appreciative of the praise he is receiving, has rejected talk of a Woods rivalry on several occasions and also cautioned against excessive focus on himself and Woods.

"You have to remember there are 80 plus players in this field, it is not just about two guys or three guys or whatever," said McIlroy.

"It's nice to be getting all this praise and everything but you have to take it with a pinch of salt. I definitely don't have the achievements that Tiger has or nowhere the level of, yeah, success that he has had over the last 15 years.

"But hopefully I can one day get close to that point. I am just happy to be here and hopefully have a good chance of winning."

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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