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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Adam Scott still feels the hurt of losing the Australian Open title to Rory McIlroy on the final green last year but believes the world number one has also inspired him to become a better golfer.
Scott was set to win a rare "Triple Crown" of Australian titles when he went into the final round at Royal Sydney last year but bogeyed the final hole to allow McIlroy to win his only title of 2013 with a birdie.
"I certainly have a thorn in my side after not winning last year. I did everything but win, I felt like when it came down to it," he told reporters at The Australian Golf Club on Wednesday.
"Even late in the piece I had my chances to kind of close the door, but I left it open and you can't do that with the best players in the world. They'll walk right through and Rory did."
Since then, McIlroy has added the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship major titles to his impressive career haul, while Scott has had just the one victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
McIlroy, who has returned to defend his title this week, said on Wednesday the Australian was "too nice a guy" for a really fierce rivalry to develop.
Scott replied by saying that he found the Northern Irishman inspirational.
"I think I've found that we've somewhat pushed each other along over the last couple of years, Rory has taken his game up a notch and that's inspired me to work harder," he added.
"If my competition's really motivated and that good, I'm going to have to work really hard as well.
"I certainly welcome the challenge because these are the best years of my career and I'm going to have to get the best out of myself to beat a guy like that."
McIlroy took golf's number one ranking off Scott in August and Henrik Stenson's victory at the DP World Tour Championship last weekend saw the Australian drop down to number three in the world.
Scott said regaining the number two ranking was only a priority in as much as it was a step back to displacing McIlroy at the very top.
"There are two important positions, being number one and being inside the top 50," he said. "Whether I'm two or three, it's not a big deal, but getting closer to one is."
Editing by John O'Brien