Tiger vs. Rory: Exhibition, but more

By Ryan LavnerOctober 28, 2012, 5:21 pm

Whatever happens Monday in China won’t alter the career trajectories of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.  

But intrigue nonetheless will be high when the top two players in the world, the biggest draws in the sport and the game’s most marketable players compete in an 18-hole exhibition – promoted as the Duel at Lake Jinsha – on Monday afternoon in the northern Chinese city of Zhenghou.  

McIlroy has done his part to hype the match-up, telling European reporters this week, “Tiger was a hero of mine growing up, and having watched him on TV doing all these incredible things, it’s now pretty cool to get to know him personally and play against him.”  

But does this 18-hole round mean anything? What can we glean from the end result? Since the budding rivals have squared off so much recently, has the showdown lost any of its appeal?

For context in this match-up, remember the initial reactions to the duo’s last encounter, two weeks ago at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final. It was an eight-man exhibition. Half the field wore shorts. Last place received $300,000. Motivation was low, if not non-existent.

Yet in their Round 3 match, Woods waxed the world No. 1, 64-70, a round that was either momentous or utterly meaningless, depending on your rooting interest. Tiger continued in the competition, though he was bounced in the next round. Rory repaired to the resort pool with his tennis-star girlfriend. Both significantly padded their bank accounts.

“Recently we’ve played a lot together and it’s been fun,” Woods said, “but nothing like this.”

Statistically speaking, at least, Woods has owned McIlroy in head-to-head play. In the 10 rounds they have faced off, dating to the 2010 World Challenge, Woods owns an 8-2 record. His only losses came this season, during the opening rounds of both the Abu Dhabi Championship and BMW Championship, the latter of which McIlroy went on to win.  

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman is the undisputed No. 1 in golf, the most dominant player in golf (and potentially for the foreseeable future), yet he’s been unable to topple his “hero” with any regularity when the two have been paired together. Could that oddity change Monday?  

Both he and Woods are coming off sterling performances in their respective tournaments over the weekend, though both came away trophyless. On Sunday at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, McIlroy was edged by Ryder Cup teammate Peter Hanson, despite firing all four rounds in the 60s. Though deflated by the runner-up finish, McIlroy strengthened his lead in the yearlong Race to Dubai, as he inches closer to becoming the second player in two years to capture the money title on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Woods, meanwhile, matched a personal best by carding 28 birdies during the CIMB Classic in steamy Malaysia, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome a five-shot deficit entering the final round. He eventually finished joint fourth, three shots behind Nick Watney, whose course-record 61 in the final round sealed a one-shot victory.  

Afterward, Woods attempted to downplay expectations for golf’s version of playground 1-on-1, saying, “We will both probably be a little bit tired, but we’re going to try and put on a good show, shoot a low round and have a little bit of fun.”  

Added McIlroy, “I treat these exhibition matches as a bit of fun and it will be good to get bragging rights, but I will be trying hard to win here in Shanghai, so it will be hard to get myself up for Monday against Tiger.”

Hard to get myself up? Sorry, not buying it.  

Sure, this could be construed as merely a four-hour hit-and-giggle, a global version of the “Showdown at Sherwood,” an exhibition apparently not even worthy of being broadcast to fans in the U.S.

But, no, this is Rory vs. Tiger, world No. 1 vs. world No. 2, golf’s new king vs. the most dominant player of his generation.

The outcome won’t alter the career trajectory of either player, but that doesn’t mean it’s inconsequential.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry