This time, Rory McIlroy showed up for his head-to-head exhibition with Tiger Woods and beat his boyhood idol by one stroke. The world No. 1, who rolled a small bucket of balls onto the course and called it a match in a recent 64-70 drubbing to Woods in Turkey, shot a 5-under 67 in Monday’s "Duel at Jinsha Lake" to defeat golf’s No. 2 by a shot in what may become the first of many such showdowns between the friendly rivals.
"This is certainly not like most Mondays. To have this many people come out and watch us play golf in an exhibition was something special. This doesn't happen," Woods told the Associated Press after the 18-hole competition for which he received a reported $2 million appearance fee and his young pal a cool million. "As far as doing something like this down the road, it would be fun."
Woods said he hoped to tee it up with McIlroy a whole bunch in the coming decade or so.
"If you look at the history of the game, it's not like other sports where the guys play against each other all the time. Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] didn't go at it that often," Woods said. "But you know what, if we can do this for the next 10, 15 years, then certainly we can have that type of rivalry.
"I think having matches like this to promote the game of golf is what it's all about. We're trying to promote the game of golf in this region and it's come a long way since my first time here 11 years ago."
While both golfers played well -- especially considering that each had to travel from far and wide to get to Zhengzhou, China, after Sunday tournaments in other parts of Asia -- the banter between the two was even more entertaining and illuminating.
During one exchange, Woods conceded he struggled with the swing changes he had made under coach Sean Foley’s watchful eye.
"Hitting my short irons so [bleeping] far," said Woods, who noted that ex-coach Hank Haney’s method had him hitting short irons and barely disturbing a blade of grass. Now, he said, he had divots on the brain.
Speaking of irons, if the executives at Titleist were hoping for a last-minute Hail Mary to keep McIlroy in the Acushnet fold, their spirits must have plummeted faster than a Rob Gronkowski end zone spike when the two-time champ took a few practice swings with one of Woods’ Nike irons.
McIlroy’s little demonstration certainly gave substance to the speculation swirling that the two-time major champ planned to sign a hefty new deal and take his considerable skills to Beaverton, Ore. No doubt, the marketing folks at Nike took note of what would likely make a dandy little advert starring golf’s primo power couple in, say, about two months.