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.
Despite taking the first set 6-2, Li Na lost the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul (the last before the end-of-season showpiece moves to Singapore next year), as world number one Serena Williams won the next two sets 6-3, 6-0. It was Serena’s 11th title of the year, and her 10th win in 11 games against Li Na, but after going into the game as a massive underdog, Li can be happy she at least forced a third set. Crucially, she now moves up to 3rd in the world rankings – a career high – by leapfrogging both Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska.
American Luke Guthrie takes a four-shot lead into the weekend at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, after an up-and-down 1-under par 71 took him to -8, while Paul Casey headlines a group of six players in second place on 4-under par. My prediction that John Daly would start brightly fade and then fade badly was largely right: two bogeys and a double bogey in the last five holes gave him a 2-over-par 74, to put him tied for 9th on 2-under par. But Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among those lurking on 1-under-par and it should be a good weekend.
John Daly is the Mike Tyson of golf: you never know what’s coming next, but you can’t look away. During a brief visit to the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai on Thursday, I watched as Daly – at that time leading the tournament at 4-under-par – hit his drive on the 18th hole straight into the rough, just a few yards from where I was standing. As the trio of Daly, England’s Simon Khan and home favorite Wu Ashun prepared to play their shots, Daly looked on incredulously as one of the walking marshals stood on his ball, pushing it further into the grass.
“Oh man! You just stood on my ball! You just stood on my ball, didn’t you?”
Today marks the start of a big couple of weeks for Rory McIlroy in China. His second-place finish in last week’s Korea’s Open, despite an awful third round, would suggest he’s back to something approaching his best, but as the papers never fail to remind him, he remains without a win this year – and after five wins (including a major) in 2012, that’s quite a comedown. Here’s his upcoming schedule:
Here’s my article in this month’s That’s Beijing magazine, which is now online, but was written before Dou Zecheng’s heroics at the China Open 10 days ago. The key to being the next Chinese golfing superstar? Money.
Last month, China’s 14-year-old golf sensation Guan Tianlang became not only the youngest player ever to tee off at the Masters in Augusta, but the youngest to make the cut at any PGA Tour event.
No particular China angle in this week’s Sports Talk column about Rory McIlroy, but I’m currently working on a piece about Chinese golf – and teen sensation Guan Tianlang in particular – which I will post once it’s in print. Here’s the piece:
When Rory McIlroy signed a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal with Nike earlier this year, most of the headlines focused on the bottom line. Those in the game, though, were quick to point out the risks.