Tiger Woods finally faced Rory McIlroy in a head-to-head match, but it was only one of six intense battles between some of the best golfers in the world.
The Turkish Airlines World Golf Final features eight top players in a tournament to win a share of $5.2 million. There are two round robin groups of four that lead into a semifinals and eventually a final for the winner.
Although rain forced two rounds to be played on Thursday, the golfers came through with some impressive performances.
Group Stage Round 3
Tiger Woods def. Rory McIlroy
The most highly anticipated match of the tournament was rather disappointing, as McIlroy hardly showed up to play. Woods had a bogey-free round and won by six strokes as the match was never really in doubt.
McIlroy's feelings on the tournament were summed up in this quote after he was eliminated, according to the Boston Herald:
I'm not that disappointed because I've got the afternoon off around the pool. I just came here because I have never played in Turkey and there's a lot of good players here, and I thought it would be a fun week and it has been.
Woods only needed to play slightly above average to take the win and advance to the semifinals.
Charl Schwartzel def. Matt Kuchar
Schwartzel continued his solid run by going undefeated through the group stage. His third win was his most impressive, finishing with an eight-under 63.
Kuchar shot an impressive 65, but the young American could not keep up with Schwartzel's three birdies in the last four holes. He was eliminated from the tournament with a 1-2 record.
Justin Rose def. Webb Simpson
Few have been more impressive during this week than Justin Rose. The English golfer had nine birdies to finish with a 62, five strokes better than U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson.
Rose has been one of the most underrated players in the world over the past couple of years. He is the No. 5 golfer in the world and has been solid all season long.
The World Golf Final is finally giving him a chance to show he is worthy of being considered among the game's elite.
Lee Westwood def. Hunter Mahan
Lee Westwood needed a win to advance to the semifinals and he got it with an impressive front nine. The veteran was seven-under in the first half, giving Hunter Mahan little chance to keep up, despite a solid performance.
A double bogey on the 17th hole ended any hope Mahan had for a comeback as he was eliminated.
Westwood advanced to the afternoon semifinals against Schwartzel.
Justin Rose def. Tiger Woods
In the closest match of the tournament, Rose barely edged Woods by one stroke to advance to the finals.
Woods was up to a two-stroke lead after hole 13, but Rose countered with a birdie and an eagle to take the lead. He continued his outstanding play to edge the superstar and give himself a chance for a very large payday.
Lee Westwood def. Charl Schwartzel
It would have taken an incredible effort to defeat Lee Westwood in either the morning or afternoon session on Thursday. His minus-seven in the group stage was followed by a tournament-best 10-under 61 in the afternoon.
Even with a double bogey early in the round, Westwood had eight birdies and two eagles to pull away from Schwartzel.
He now advances to the tournament final with a chance to win $1.5 million.
Lee Westwood vs. Justin Rose
The two British players were teammates in the Ryder Cup, and they each helped the Europeans win in comeback fashion with singles victories. Now they must be able to continue great head-to-head play against each other.
These men faced each other on Wednesday, with Rose coming out on top with a three-stroke victory.
Rose is still yet to lose in the World Golf Final. He has been incredibly consistent throughout, but it will take a great effort to defeat his compatriot based on Thursday's performance.
Whichever player gets off to a good start should be able to keep momentum that will carry him to a victory.
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