Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played golf together on Sunday, but Nike’s marquee luminaries had no need for the winter mittens and ski cap that Matt Kuchar sported during lulls in his march to victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in wintry Tucson.
Having made hasty exits from the event -- which fans will likely remember more for its snow delays, wind-chill factors, and Tim Finchem’s defiant stand against the USGA’s anchored-ban proposal than for Kuchar’s win -- Woods and McIlroy teed it up at Medalist GC in Hobe Sound, Fla., in a balmy 87 degrees, according to Golf Digest’s Tim Rosaforte.
What better way for McIlroy to gain more comfort with his new clubs heading into this week’s Honda Classic than to pick up some pointers from his boyhood idol on the latter’s home course? And could there be a more suitable venue for Woods to hone his game for the unofficial start of spring training for the Masters than on a track on which he owns the scoring record?
Both golfers lost in the first round on Thursday in Arizona, though Woods likely departed with far less angst than that of his young rival. Tiger said he was pleased with his game despite losing to Charles Howell III, and his stats, including no bogeys and just one missed fairway in regulation, backed him up.
“I played well, I really did. I hit a lot of good shots out there,” he said after Howell took him down, 2 and 1. “As I said, I didn't make a bogey out there. Unfortunately, it's the nature of the format, and I'm not advancing.”
Woods also enters this week with a win in his first PGA Tour contest of the season, a four-shot triumph at the Farmers Insurance Open.
McIlroy, on the other hand, flew home with the need to shake off the obvious rust after a lengthy off-season and with questions about his switch from Titleist to Nike gear that will continue to dog him as long as he struggles. The two-time major champion has played just three competitive rounds this season, the other two when he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi last month.
For sure, Rory, who hit his driver last week better than he had in the Middle East, has work to do with his wayward irons. And with eight others (including Tiger) among the world’s top 20 in the field this week, he’ll need all his weapons to fend off challengers to his 2012 Honda Classic title.