Rory McIlroy staked an early lead before holding on to win by a stroke in his “Duel at Jinsha Lake” 18-hole exhibition event against Tiger Woods yesterday.
“It was a pretty exciting day and the match was pretty close all day,” Northern Ireland’s McIlroy told reporters just 24 hours after finishing second in the European Tour BMW Masters event in Shanghai.
The world No. 1 moved into a lead he would never relinquish against his US opponent when he birdied two of his opening three holes and Woods dropped a shot on the third, before going on to sign for a bogey-free five-under 67.
On a cool and misty day in front of an enthusiastic gallery, double major winner McIlroy made the turn two shots clear of Woods at three-under par in the medal match-play encounter.
Woods, who was playing in China for the first time in two years, clawed a shot back when he chipped in from off the green at the par-three 12th, but then slipped two behind again with a bogey on the next.
The world No. 2 birdied the 14th to reapply the pressure back on McIlroy and after both players picked up shots on the 15th, they each parred the final three holes, with Woods almost forcing a playoff when he almost chipped in on the last.
“I got off to a good start and had a little bit of advantage for the first few holes, but then Tiger birdied a few on the back nine. All I was trying to do was to keep myself ahead and I managed to do that,” McIlroy said.
Woods arrived in Zhengzhou having finished fourth in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia on Sunday and was looking for a repeat win over McIlroy after handing the Briton a seven-shot round-robin defeat in the recent World Golf Final in Turkey.
However, both players struggled with the speed of the Jinsha Lake greens, while staff fought a constant battle with fans, who often broke through security lines.
Despite his defeat, Woods hinted he would welcome further opportunities to go head-to-head against McIlroy in similar end-of-season exhibition matches.