Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both lose to deepen Turkish despair at first-tee fracas
If the idea was to put Turkey on the golfing map, the Turkish Airlines World Golf Championship succeeded in a way no one imagined.
The first blow was landed not by Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy but the head of the Turkish Golf Federation, who allegedly butted an over-enthusiastic photographer at the first tee. Cihat Unal filed a complaint with the Antalya police against Ahmet Agaoglu, claiming that his glasses were broken in the attack. Agaoglu, a powerful shipping magnate in his spare time, is the man responsible for bringing this eight-man, knockout event to Antalya.
The aim is to raise the region's profile as a golfing destination as well as projecting Turkey's suitability to host global sporting events. He can safely claim to have put Turkey on the golfing map. Agaoglu, who denies the assault allegation, is due to address a press conference this morning at which he is expected to announce further tournaments next year. The first question is unlikely to be about golf.
There was more disappointment for the organisers with the first-round defeats of ticket-sellers McIlroy and Woods. The two are scheduled to meet this afternoon in the final matches of the round-robin phase, but their participation in the knockout stages, or lack of it, could be decided by then if they fail to win their morning encounters. McIlroy, who lost to Matt Kuchar, faces Charl Schwartzel, who in turn accounted for Woods. Woods takes on Kuchar first up.
Of the looming encounter with McIlroy, Woods said: "I have to take care of my match and we'll see in the afternoon. We're the two highest ranked players in the world right now. It will be a fun match either way, but it will obviously be a lot better if we both win in the morning."
McIlroy and Kuchar were level at two under par after 14 holes before the former wrecked his scorecard. McIlroy posted back-to-back sevens at 15 and 16 before posting another double bogey at 17.
"I hit a drive into the trees on 15 and lost a bit of confidence," McIlroy said. "I have got to win in the morning first and I will hopefully go out there and play better against Charl. I need to win both of my matches. To go from level to three behind with three to play, then you hit your tee shot left on 16 into the water hazard as well, you resign yourself to losing the match and getting yourself ready for the next two matches."
The other winners on the opening day were Justin Rose over Hunter Mahan and Lee Westwood, who chipped in at 17 to draw level against US Open champion Webb Simpson before taking the point with a par at the last. "I played a great shot at 17, I didn't have too good a lie," said Westwood.
"The ball was sitting down where the television cabling had been. It just came out perfect and landed in the right spot. As soon as it got on the green, it looked like going in."
Westwood, playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup, said his decision not to play the Dunhill Links Championship last week was the right one. "I think it was a wise move. I didn't feel like hitting a ball until last Friday. It was good to watch the Ryder Cup highlights to see how everyone won their point. There were some miracles out there. It was a very special week and a very special last day." Westwood also broadcast his advocacy of Darren Clarke over Paul McGinlay for the Ryder Cup captaincy at Gleneagles.
The decision will be made in January. "There are a lot of good candidates but it if I were asked to pick it would be Darren," Westwood said.
"He has been a Ryder Cup stalwart for many years. The one at the K Club will be remembered for him, his great performance under the stress of what he was going through at the time.
"He is a major champion and a very good public speaker. Tactically he is very astute. I think he has a lot going for him. Paul is good in the team room and makes a great vice-captain.
"Paul has played three, Darren has played five, won a major championship and a lot of tournaments. You have to have a criteria somewhere and he edges it for me."