McIlroy aims to knock Woods out of reckoning in Turkey
Rory McIlroy has a monsoon of Mancunian proportions to thank for denying him a day on the beach with the missus. Instead of rubbing factor 50 into the back of Caroline Wozniacki this morning, McIlroy must pick up the clubs at least one more time to meet the challenge of Tiger Woods and hope victory is enough to take him into the knockout stage of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya.
Or maybe not. The numbers point to a date at the water's edge sooner rather than later for McIlroy, whatever the outcome against Woods, following the world No 1's second defeat in the round-robin stage to Charl Schwartzel. McIlroy improved on his opening-round loss to Matt Kuchar, shooting a level-par 71, but the South African birdied the last to render today's showpiece almost irrelevant.
Even were McIlroy to beat Woods, who eased past Kuchar with a five-under 67, the countback does not favour him. "I'll try to keep him out of those semi-finals. I'm sure that's not what the tournament wants but it's what I'm going to try to do," McIlroy said, in a none too convincing attempt at breathing life into his moribund Turkish campaign.
"It was actually a decent match," McIlroy added. "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 then Charl birdied three of the last four so I couldn't really do much about that."
A win guarantees Woods' progress if the resurgent Schwartzel cleans up against Kuchar. Even if Kuchar prevails, it is a brave man that would bet against Woods going through, given a rules matrix that is almost impossible to unravel. In other words, put your money on the Turkish Airlines calculator finding in favour of the big ticket-seller.
Woods, who shot a four-under-par 67 to cruise past "Kooch" by five strokes, said he would be "going at it" against McIlroy no matter what the state of play. "It's the match-up the galleries want to see. I know it is only an exhibition match but I think we will both be going for it. No one wants to lose. I doubled two and bogeyed four this morning but after that I hit it pretty well."
In the battle of the European Ryder Cup warriors, Justin Rose beat Lee Westwood by three strokes. A round of 66 was seven shots better than Rose's opening-day effort against Hunter Mahan and all but guaranteed progress to the knockout stage. "Lee's a great player," Rose said. "He kept the pressure on all the way. I putted much better today. The putts at 15 and 17 were crucial, really. This is not a tour event, but the field is high-class and I want to do well in it."
Following the success of this limited-field event, Turkey will feature for the first time next year on the main European Tour. The Turkish Open will debut as the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai schedule, boasting a $7m (£4.5m) prize fund.
World Golf Final: Details
C Schwartzel bt R McIlroy 70-71
T Woods bt M Kuchar 67-72
J Rose bt L Westwood 66-69
W Simpson bt H Mahan 65-67
R McIlroy v T Woods
C Schwartzel v M Kuchar
J Rose v W Simpson
L Westwood v H Mahan