Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy Matchplay—Who Ya Got?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2012

FARMINGDALE, NY - AUGUST 24:  Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the second hole during the second round of The Barclays at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park August 24, 2012 in Farmingdale, New York.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Match play appeals to all golfers.

Even if you are a low handicapper, you know you always have a chance until the match is over.

You know that you may have lost the last hole by 10 strokes, but you are even with your opponent if you win the next hole by one stroke.

If you have even a half ounce of optimism in your soul, you don't care who you are competing with in match play. You have a chance.

So if anyone out there thinks that Tiger Woods would have some trepidation about playing Rory McIlroy in match play, that idea makes no sense at all.

Woods is the most studied and criticized golfer in the world. The one-time golf prodigy is now looked at with derision, doubt and perhaps some pity.

None of that matters. Once Woods is out on the golf course, he is still his own man. He has been humbled by the events that brought down his marriage and stopped his progress, but those days are over.

Woods has had a great year by all standards but his own. He has won three tournaments. He is the leading money winner on the PGA tour. He is one of the favorites in the FedExCup Playoffs. He played well in three of the four majors for the first two rounds.

All of these are factors that should make him confident going forward. If Woods is going to take on McIlroy in the upcoming Ryder Cup in an individual matchup, he should be able to hold his own.

Not that McIlroy will be intimidated. McIlroy is clearly his own man and as he has climbed up the golf ladder the last two years, it is clear that he has the inner confidence to take on the best players in the world and win.

He demonstrated that in the 2011 U.S. Open and again this year in the PGA Tournament. A chance to play Woods is something he will relish.

As strong as the Europeans have been in recent Ryder Cup competitions, the idea of Woods playing in his home country before the supportive fans at Medinah Country Club in Illinois will only buoy his strength and confidence.

That may give Woods a bit of an edge in the intangibles.

But, the bottom line is execution on the golf course. Driving, fairway play, bunker play, approach shots, around the green and putting. Those areas will decide which golfer does better.

Woods has led the PGA in scoring average this year. His 69.02 average is a bit better than McIlroy's 69.11 mark during the season. Woods hits slightly more greens in regulation than McIlory and he is a more accurate driver than McIlroy.

McIlroy outdrives Woods and he gets more birdies per round.

The two golfers are very close statistically based on their performance this year.

With that as a back drop, the idea of Woods playing in his home country with the home fans providing full-throated approval will be too much for McIlroy to overcome. It won't be a runaway by any stretch, but Woods will find a way to beat his young Irish rival.