5 Things: Tiger, McIlroy sputter prior to Wednesday showdown
ANTALYA, Turkey -- Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were in action on the eve of their much-anticipated battle at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final.
Unfortunately for both, their play on Tuesday in the eight-player, match-play event left plenty to be desired.
Here are 5 Things to take away from Tuesday in Turkey:
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0-1, PART ONE
The advanced planning couldn’t have gone worse. With everyone focused on the afternoon match on Wednesday between World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and World No. 2 Tiger Woods, everyone forgot that for it to mean something they each needed to beat their opponents on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
With Tuesday in the books, it's McIlroy and Woods on the outside looking in and needing to make zero mistakes on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals on Thursday.
The kicker is that they play each other on Wednesday afternoon and may be playing for a spot in the semis or just playing for pride if they both lose on Wednesday morning.
For both McIlroy and Woods it was all about mistakes on Tuesday, Woods made a triple-bogey 7 at the short (358 yards), par-4 ninth. Woods did battle back, only to see everything go wrong again with a bogey on the 18th hole to lose to Charl Schwartzel, 1 up.
“I got to play (Matt) Kuch(ar) and take care of my business,” Woods said as he was asked about his match with McIlroy. “I was 3 down with four to go and I birdied 14, 16 and 17 to at least get it back. “
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0-1, PART DUO
Before Woods finished, McIlroy was making a mess of his chances to win his match against Matt Kuchar. A tight match coming to the 15th tee went into a blowout as McIlroy made a triple-bogey 7 on No. 15, a double-bogey at No. 16 and another double-bogey at No. 17, eventually losing to the Players champion after a 5-over 76.
“To go from level to 3 behind with three to play and then you hit your tee shot left on 16, you sort of resign yourself to losing the match and sort of getting yourself ready for the next two,” McIlroy said. “I didn't start great ball‑striking wise, but my short game saved me a bit. A couple of eagles on the front nine definitely helped. I was starting to play some decent golf on the back nine, and I missed the tee shot on 15 in the trees and was messing about in there, so that didn't help.”
McIlroy believes that Tuesday’s experience may actually focus him going into Wednesday’s crucial matches.
“In a way it could be a blessing that I am not complacent,” McIlroy said. “I go out there and give it my best.”
McIlroy and Englishman Justin Rose were the only two players that did not play the course before Tuesday, but McIlroy was the only loser as Rose won his match by four over Hunter Mahan.
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NOT A PUSH OVER
Antalya Golf Club is only nine years old, but it gave eight of the world's best fits on Tuesday. Playing a pedestrian 7,010 yards for the best players in the world seemed not much of an issue, but with eight holes that have water in play and fairways narrowed by large trees, the relative infant packed some punch.
Of the eight, Charl Schwartzel shot the best score with a 2-under 69. And the scoring average was 72, a full shot above the par 71 on the card.
Hunter Mahan had the highest score, a 5-over 76, and like most of the second half of the 2012 season, Mahan had no answer for his poor play.
“I didn’t do any good, that was the problem,” Mahan said of his birdie-less round. “Didn’t make any putts and or hit it very good, didn’t have many looks and when I did I didn’t make them.”
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DOWN TO THE END
The closest match of the four was the Webb Simpson – Lee Westwood match. Going into the final hole the pair were even after a lot of back-and-forth that saw five lead changes, the last and most important coming on the 18th hole when Simpson decided on an 8-iron as his caddie Paul Tesori was lobbying for a nine.
Simpson hit it flush, over the green and on a down slope to the green. The bogey five was eventually the difference.
“He was right,” Simpson said of his caddie’s club selection on the 18th hole. “If it doesn’t plug it’s a pretty easy up and down. It stinks to lose one that I was kind of winning a lot of the day.”
Simpson shot 73 to Westwood’s 72.
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The forecast for Wednesday’s second and third round of matches could possibly move the third group match to Thursday. Thunderstorms that could produce a half-inch of water are in the forecast.
If the weather does turn on ugly on Wednesday afternoon, the contingency plan would be to play the third match on Thursday morning and then start the semifinals in the afternoon.
Thursday and Friday’s weather forecast is for sunny and dry conditions.