Woods ahead but McIlroy will most likely head for the beach
BARRING SOMETHING extraordinary, Rory McIlroy will still be afforded an afternoon on the beach alongside Caroline Wozniacki. The world’s number one golfer has, though, been denied a full day of sun, sea, sand and romance on account of the storm which battered Antalya yesterday lunchtime.
McIlroy’s morning loss to a revitalised Charl Schwartzel means he requires something in the realms of the highly unlikely to progress to the semi-finals of the Turkish Airlines World Golf final. Namely, a significant win over Tiger Woods in combination with a similarly heavy victory for Schwartzel when he meets the American Matt Kuchar.
Those ties should have taken place yesterday afternoon but Mother Nature decreed otherwise. Within merely half an hour, rain had fallen to such an extent that areas of the Sultan Course were unplayable, thunder cracked overhead and the tournament’s media centre was evacuated on safety grounds.
One benefit of an eight-man field is flexibility. Hence players will return to play their last round of group matches this morning before proceeding to the semi-finals. The final is scheduled for tomorrow.
“It looks like I’ll get to spend a day on the beach tomorrow, which will be nice,” McIlroy said after his 71 was beaten by Schwartzel’s 70.
“It was actually a decent match. I felt like I played a bit better today, had plenty of chances and just didn’t really hole much.
“I got off to a better start and Charl played solid and then birdied three of the last four so I couldn’t really do much about that.”
Woods has more legitimate aspirations of progression after an impressive 67 on the tight, tree-lined course proved five strokes better than Kuchar. A rare match between Woods and McIlroy, regardless of what is at stake, still has to be readily anticipated by anyone in attendance.
“I’ll try and keep him out of those semi-finals,” McIlroy insisted. “I’m sure that’s not what the tournament wants but it’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Elsewhere yesterday, Justin Rose’s 66 defeated Lee Westwood while Webb Simpson carded 65 – the lowest score of the event so far – to see off Hunter Mahan by two.
Before inclement conditions set in, there had also been confirmation that the Turkish Open will be played in Antalya as a sanctioned European Tour event for three years from November 2013. The format will return to strokeplay for a 78-man field.
There was an apology, too, from the head of the Turkish Golf Federation for his role in a fracas with a local journalist and cameraman on day one of the World Final.
Ahmet Agaoglu has denied headbutting the reporter but admitted pushing him. “While organising such tournaments I shouldn’t have to be there, but I am trying to make everything so perfect,” Agaoglu said. “It was unlucky it happened and I will give a written apology because one way or another it was not nice.”
Darren Clarke, meanwhile, has distanced himself from a report which claimed he is already nailed-on to be Europe’s Ryder Cup captain in 2014. There is now a very strong likelihood of Clarke being handed that role, with Westwood’s public support of his candidature particularly significant.
Informal background talks are thought to have taken place but Clarke used his Twitter account to dismiss any notion of a fait accompli. He said: “To clarify, I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy. It’s not decided by the committee until January. Would be a huge honour if asked.”
Richard Hills, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, added: “No decision on the European captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup has been taken and none will be taken until the tournament committee next meets.”
TIGER THINKING OF JOINING EUROPEAN TOUR
Tiger Woods will consider the possibility of joining the European Tour after changes are made to membership qualification rules. The Tour is expected to announce soon that playing in the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and the Seve Trophy will count toward the 13 events needed for membership.
Woods said that he last looked into joining the European Tour in 2000 when the requirement was 11 events. I did play Abu Dhabi but then 13 events are certainly a lot more than 11, especially playing full-time in the States, he said.
Woods would be only two or three events short of the 13 if the list includes the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, four majors, four World Golf Championship events and appearances in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai.