Coming off impressive showings at the CIMB Classic and BMW Masters events over the weekend, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were back at it Monday in China in an exhibition called The Duel at Jinsha Lake.
Both players brought their best stuff for the huge crowd, but it was McIlroy who shot a 67, perhaps using his intimidation factor to edge Woods (68) by a stroke to earn the victory in a matchup of arguably the two most famous golfers in the world.
Woods did make a nice comeback on the back nine, sinking birdies on the 12th and 14th holes to pull within a stroke. On the final hole Woods found the bunker, all but assuring he'd finish a stroke behind McIlory.
McIlroy jumped out to a quick lead with two birdies on the first three holes and carried that momentum all the way to a victory.
What It Means
It's hard to gauge what this does for either player because it is just an exhibition setting. Woods is as competitive as any athlete in any sport, so I am sure that he never took the foot off the gas pedal.
McIlroy strikes you as a player who wants to win, but in this setting, he isn't going to lose his lunch if he has a bad day. Perhaps we found out that McIlroy is better than Woods, though a lot of golf fans would tell you that was already the case.
One interesting thing to come out of this event was Woods, who, according to the Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker, had some comments about his coach Sean Foley.
Wow. Tiger: "Struggling with (coach) Sean (Foley). (I've been) hitting my short irons so f#!%! far."— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) October 29, 2012
Take that for what it is right now, but if Woods has a problem, he is going to do anything he can to figure out how to fix it.
A Budding Rivalry
Following the matchup, Woods commented (via PGATour.com) that he likes the idea of using this stage as a way to promote rivalries in golf to make the sport more accessible to fans who like head-to-head combat:
If you look at the history of the game, it's not like other sports where the guys play against each other all the time. Jack (Nicklaus) and Arnold (Palmer) didn't go at it that often. But you know what, if we can do this for the next 10, 15 years, then certainly we can have that type of rivalry.
I think having matches like this to promote the game of golf is what it's all about. We're trying to promote the game of golf in this region and it's come a long way since my first time here 11 years ago.
McIlroy and Woods do represent two different stages of the PGA Tour. Woods is now the veteran who can still be dominant but is no longer the clear-cut top player in the world like he used to be.
McIlroy is the young stud who should get better as he gets into his physical peak. Remember, at just 23 years old, there is still plenty of time for him to figure things out and improve.
If PGA higher-ups can turn this into a rivalry, it could easily end up being bigger than anything Woods and Phil Mickelson had going on during the last decade.