Rory beats Tiger by 1 in China

Rory McIlroy needed the win – any win – more than he needed the money, and he got it….just. One shot ahead going down the 18th hole, McIlroy watched as Tiger Woods missed a chance to tie things up with an eagle, and then sank his own birdie putt to match Woods’s birdie, as McIlroy’s 67 edged a 68 from Woods.

ImageThe prize money had been determined ahead of time, meaning the match was mostly about pride. The Telegraph quoted “industry insiders” as estimating that McIlroy would earn $1.5 million while Woods would pocket more than $2 million – roughly the same figures that have been reported or mentioned elsewhere – so McIlroy’s second consecutive win in this event doesn’t net him any extra cash.

Woods said openly he hadn’t picked up a club since The President’s Cup three weeks ago, he’d only arrived in China on Sunday night after flying straight there from the US, and he was coughing up a lung all the way through his round. In other words, he shouldn’t have been anywhere near to 100%.

But for Rory, it was his first “win” of a difficult year, and may give him more confidence for this week’s HSBC Champions back in Shanghai, where he needs a decent performance to qualify for the Race to Dubai finale.

ImageFor the record, Rory had seven birdies, one eagle, one bogey and one double bogey to Tiger’s┬áseven birdies, one eagle, and three bogeys. It was good natured throughout – Woods reportedly recruited McIlroy to join him at Nike – and the two players were mic’ed up for broadcast. Only right at the end did Woods show his true competitive streak, walking off the 17th on his own to go ahead to 18.

But by all accounts, the highlight was the crowd control (or lack of it). Top players always attract large gatherings, but when there are only one group on the course to watch, that crowd will swell several times further. Add to that the dynamics of Chinese golf fans who are largely “uneducated” as one senior executive in China’s golf industry recently told me, and you have a chaotic combination. Check out some of the scenes below:

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Tickets for spectators were 888 RMB (145 USD), or free for under-18s, and include a round of golf at one of the lesser (but still excellent) Mission Hills golf courses. Looks like several people thought that was a pretty good deal.

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