BELEK, Turkey October 10 – Organisers of the $5.2m World Golf Final now face an anxious time after the world’s leading two golfers, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, were beaten in Tuesday’s opening round at the Turkish resort of Belek.
World No. 1 McIlroy played his closing five holes on the Sultan Course in a horror seven-over par for an eventual round of a five-over par 75 to lose to American rival Matt Kuchar who shot a one-under par 70.
It was both McIlroy and Kuchar’s first competitive round of golf since last month’s Ryder Cup.
McIlroy had WTA World No. 10 ranked girlfriend Caroline Wozinacki walking the course with him but it failed to lift the 23-year-old Northern Irishman.
McIlroy had gone ahead at the first with a par but after Kuchar birdied the second that was the closest the double Major Champion got to the current World No. 15.
Kuchar made the turn two shots ahead and while McIlroy was one-under par from the 10th to the 14th holes he finished triple bogey, double bogey, double bogey and par.
“I hit a drive into the trees on 15 and lost a bit of confidence,” said McIlroy.
“I need to win both of my matches tomorrow if I am to advance. I just struggled for a bit of motivation out there so I need to go out and concentrate on both of my matches tomorrow.”
Kuchar remarked: “It was quite a match and I played really well on the front nine and was three ahead through 10 holes.
“I just thought I had to play mistake-free and hopefully Rory wouldn’t get too hot.
“All of a sudden we were back to even with four to go but then it was one of these formats which really showed itself with what happened on 15 to Rory.
“There we are all square with four to go, he hits it right and makes triple bogey, and I go three up with three to go and I think both of us lost a little interest at that point.”
Kuchar earns a point for his victory and now faces Woods in Wednesday morning’s second round and Schwartzel in the afternoon.
Woods began his campaign for the $US 1.5m first prize cheque with a birdie at the first but found himself two strokes behind his fellow Masters winner when Woods triple bogeyed after finding water off the tee and then three-putting.
Their match was all-square coming down the last but Woods then sent his second shot into a back greenside bunker from where the 14-time Major winner took bogey to lose by a shot with a round of 70 to Schwartzel’s 69.
“It came right down to the wire but I can’t believe how far that second shot flew into the back bunker and that was the match,” he said.
“It means now that I have to play ‘Kooch’ (Matt Kuchar) and try and win that match before facing Rory in the afternoon but my main concern in ‘Kooch’ and try and beat him.
“Despite the outcome I really enjoy the format and I haven’t played since format since the times of the Dunhill Cup.
“It’s not something that we play very often and we saw today how it can swing on you. I had a three-shot swing go against me on nine and a two-shot in my favour at 17 when I birdied the hole and Charl bogeyed.”
The leading two point scorers in their Group 2 will advance to Thursday’s semi-final against the leading two players from Group 1.
Victorious Ryder Cup colleagues Lee Westwood and Justin Rose head Group 1 with Westwood accounting for U.S. Open champion, Webb Simpson with a round of 72 compared to Simpson’s 73.
Westwood had been three shots behind Simpson at the turn but there match was all even after 13 holes.
Simpson went ahead at 16 but Westwood birdied 17 when he chipped in and then won his match when his American opponent bogeyed the last.
“I played a great shot at 17 event though I did not have too good a lie,” said Westwood.
“The ball was sitting down were TV cabling had been, and it just came out perfect, landed in the right spot, soon as it got on the green looked like going in.”
Rose defeated Hunter Mahan by four strokes with a round of 71 to Mahan’s 75.
Mahan failed to birdie any of his holes against Rose who is returning to competition also after the Ryder Cup and having spent a week relaxing with close friend Ian Poulter at Albany in the Bahamas.