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.

Getty Images

Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Getty Images

Woods happy to help Furyk at Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:58 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods didn't hesitate when Jim Furyk asked him to become a vice captain at the upcoming Ryder Cup.

Woods said Wednesday that Furyk asked he and Steve Stricker “a while ago” whether they were interested in being assistants in Paris as the Americans try to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Woods said of Furyk, “and whatever he wants, whatever he needs, I’m there to help him. We’re worked well the last couple of years in the cups together.”

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Though Woods has said that he wants to be a playing vice captain, he has been an assistant at each of the past two international team competitions.

Furyk, Woods and Stricker were all assistants at Hazeltine, where the U.S. won in a rout.

“Jim is very detailed, very smart, very analytical, and he’s just a fantastic leader,” Woods said. “For him to ask Stricks and I together, it will be special for both of us.”

Getty Images

Woods to hit '4 or 5' drivers each day at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:25 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Those hoping Tiger Woods will wield the driver early and often this week at PGA National likely will be disappointed.

Depending on wind direction, he said he will only hit “four or five” drivers each round.

During Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods hit driver on six holes. He found two fairways with the big stick and found the right rough four times, though a few of those misses were only a few yards off the fairway.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

In two starts this year, Woods has struggled mightily with every club off the tee, but driver has been especially troublesome. He has found only 36 percent of the fairways so far (30 of 84).

The Champion Course here is a par 70, with water and bunkers often lining the fairways. Putting the ball in play off the tee will be at a premium, and so Woods opted for a low, penetrating 2-iron six times in the pro-am.

Woods said he did not make any equipment changes following the missed cut at Riviera.