Rory and Padraig to challenge Tiger

From Brian Keogh in Dubai

Henrik Stenson reckons Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington can step up and challenge Tiger Woods for golfing supremacy

The in-form Swede, who is defending his Dubai Desert Classic title this week, arrived at the Emirates Club on the back of consecutive second place finishes in Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

And while he knows that he has the game to beat Woods after winning in Dubai last year, he has no doubt that Irish duo Harrington and McIlroy are more than capable of doing the same any given Sunday.

Asked who he believed might challenge Woods, Stenson smiled at his Irish inquisitor and replied: “I think I’ll start with what you want to hear: Padraig. And Rory.”

He added: “Padraig is such a hard worker and he’s just taking one step after another. He’s going to be around and challenge for the big events, I’m positive.

“And Rory has shown that he’s got some great potential and great talent. Hopefully you guys will give him a bit of slack and he can work on his game and he can continue.

“There’s some good young players coming up and hopefully we can expect some good things from the players who are around as well.

“But it’s going to be tough against Tiger. Everybody knows that. But it’s possible, so you have to convince yourself of that.”

Given his early season form, Stenson must be regarded as one of Woods’ principal rivals this week.

The world No 13 is just hoping that Woods is not quite as impressive as he was at this year's US Open venue Torrey Pines, where he won the Buick Invitational for the fourth time in a row on Sunday.

Stenson said. “It’s going to take some really great golfing to challenge him this week. He owns that one (the Buick), as well as so many others.”