Rory McIlroy is looking forward to taking on Tiger Woods down the stretch in majors after beating his boyhood idol by a shot in the Duel at Jinsha Lake in China.
The world number one carded a bogey-free, five-under-par 67 to beat his boyhood idol by one stroke in Zhengzhou.
Scot James Byrne, an Asian Tour player who watched the broadcast live, Woods was not a happy camper after losing out to McIlroy, who he trounced 64-70 in the Turish Airlines World Golf Final in Turkey recently.
“Tiger burns the edge with a bunker shot to tie,” Byrne tweeted. “McIlroy is the winner. Considering it’s just an exhibition, Tiger does not look happy!!”
McIlroy, winner of four titles this year including his second Major, sprinted out of the blocks with birdies at holes one and three at Jinsha Lake Golf Club and added another at eight to make the turn in three-under 33, two ahead of Woods.
Woods, the 14-time Major champion, responded to the challenge with birdies at the 10th, 12th and 14th, offset by a bogey at 13, as the world number two drew within one shot of McIlroy, who also birdied the 10th.
Both players then birdied the 537-yard par-five 14th before McIlroy held on for the victory with four straight pars over the 7,039-yard layout, edging the head-to-head medal-match contest.
“It was close the whole day. I had the better start, then Tiger started getting birdies on the back nine. It was an enjoyable day and I think it was pretty exciting for the fans,” said McIlroy, who won the PGA Championship by eight strokes in August.
“It would be great to compete more with Tiger like this, maybe down the home stretch in the Majors.”
Woods agreed that both players were in good form and had the chance to shoot even lower scores, with both golfers guilty of missing several short putts on the testing sloping greens at Jinsha Lake.
“We actually both played pretty decent golf. We left a lot of putts out there and we could have really shot some low numbers,” said Woods, who was playing in Zhengzhou for the first time after flying in from Malaysia on Sunday night.
“This is certainly not like most Mondays. To have this many people come out is pretty special. We’re ranked one and two in the world so a match like this can really promote the game in China. I’ve come here for 11 years now and it’s amazing how much the game has grown here.”
McIlroy was making his second visit to Jinsha Lake after playing two holes at the club on the second day of last year’s week-long, seven-city China Golf Challenge. However, he was impressed by the size of the gallery who turned out to watch the 18-hole contest.
“It’s great that there are so many people who will come out to watch us. The growth of the game here has been huge even in the few years I’ve been visiting, and I really hope that games like these can inspire some kids who want to play the game.”
Woods, who was world number one for a record 623 weeks, has enjoyed a resurgence in form and rose to world number two with three PGA Tour victories. He now believes there could be a potential long-term rivalry with McIlroy, who’s just 23.
“Over the past few years, it has been great to see his growth. We’d be excited about a rivalry, but we’d want it to last for 10, 15 years,” said Woods, whose 100 career wins include 74 PGA Tour titles, second only to Sam Snead.
McIlroy was six years old when he first started watching Woods on television and believed that there might even be a six-year-old in China who could be similarly inspired by him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one of the next great players was to come from China,” he said. “More and more are playing the game and with it being an Olympic sport, the interest is growing more and more in China.”