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Rory McIlroy says he “absolutely despised” Billy Horschel before the duo became good friends.

McIlroy and Horschel have become close on the PGA Tour in recent years – but they certainly weren’t pals during a fierce matchplay rivalry back in 2007, as he revealed speaking on the Subpar podcast.

In the Walker Cup at Royal County Down 16 years ago, McIlroy, 18, and Horschel, 20, were drawn together in three out of four matches.

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Horschel got the better of McIlroy on the first two meetings in Northern Ireland, with one victory coming with some help from his US teammate Rickie Fowler.

But McIlroy was fired up to beat him in the singles on Day 2 and opened up on his resentment during his early years for his fellow former FedEx Cup champion.

When asked by Colt Knost who he hated more – Horschel at the Walker Cup or Patrick Reed during their epic Ryder Cup battle in 2016 – McIlroy was unequivocal.

“Billy Horschel, and that’s saying something,” McIlroy laughed. “And that is saying something.”

“Oh, I absolutely despised him,” he added. “We’ve actually become really close since, which is great. Billy in that ’07 — we were all probably obnoxious at the time, but because I was at home as well and he was like pretty rude to the crowd at times too and they are my people. It was like, ‘I’m going to beat his ass.’

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“But we actually have forged a really good friendship since. Billy’s a good dude. I like him a lot.”

Horschel then had a brilliant response on Twitter reacting to McIlroy’s comments.

“Rory told me about this last week when we played together,” he wrote. “My response… I probably would have punched myself as well.”

Of course, McIlroy won’t be able to rekindle his rivalry with either Horschel or Reed in Marco Simone after the duo both missed out on the US Ryder Cup team.

The Northern Irishman began his bid at the BMW Championship with a level par opening round and will take a week off before the highly-anticipated showdown in Rome.

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