McIlroy looking forward to taking on Tiger
THEIR FIRST names are, these days, sufficient to whet the appetite in sporting conflict. Tiger v Rory. Rory v Tiger. Whichever way you put it, the juices flow. Now, just over a week on from the Ryder Cup where such a frontal assault between the world’s top two players never materialised, McIlroy and Woods will definitely match-up against one another in this week’s Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya.
With €1.1 million to the eventual winner of this eight-man tournament, McIlroy and Woods have been drawn in the same four-man group alongside Charl Schwartzel and Matt Kuchar. The top two players from the round-robin series which is played on a medal matchplay format advance to the semi-finals. The second group comprises Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and US Open champion Webb Simpson.
McIlroy, who arrived in Turkey yesterday but admitted he hadn’t hit a ball in anger since helping Europe to a memorable win in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, “I’m still trying to come down from the high of it,” confessed McIlroy, the world number one, adding he was looking forward to the head-to-head with Woods which will be the final match of the initial round-robin series.
“It’s something I’m looking forward to. Tiger’s been a hero of mine growing up, so to compete against him is a dream come true. This will be the first match we have had head-to-head and it’s a match I would really like to win. It’s a bit different to the Ryder Cup because it’s medal matchplay and it will be a bit more relaxed than the final day of a Major . . . (but) we will both be trying to beat each other,” said McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman also revealed it was interesting to watch in player “in the zone,” as Ian Poulter was when making a finishing stretch of five birdies in the finishing five holes of their fourballs on the Saturday afternoon of the Ryder Cup. “I have experienced it before when you feel like you are in the zone but to see someone doing it under that pressure is very, very impressive.”
McIlroy opens his quest in the tournament with a match today against Kuchar. He plays Schwartzel tomorrow morning, followed by the mouth-watering duel with Woods tomorrow afternoon, after which the top two players from the group advance.
The format is medal matchplay – head-to-head with the lowest strokeplay score over 18 holes winning one point – and each player plays three group matches with the top two from each group moving one (winner of Group A playing runner-up in Group B, and vice versa) with the semi-finals on Thursday and the final on Friday.
Woods, incidentally, reportedly apologised to “rookie” members of Davis Love’s US Ryder Cup team after the defeat at Medinah. The former world number one took just half a point from four matches and took debutants Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and Simpson aside to say sorry. “I had an opportunity to earn three points in team sessions and didn’t do that . . . my point (in the singles against Francesco Molinari) didn’t matter when all was said and done. Steve Stricker and I were sent out to win points and we didn’t do it. That was frustrating.