The world’s two top ranked golfers squared off on Sunday in a one-on-one match play competition, but it wasn’t exactly the matchup organizers of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship were hoping to see.
While Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan were squaring off in the championship round of the 64-golfer, tournament-style match play competition, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy decided to get together for a little friendly competition of their own, albeit in private – far away from the television cameras and publicity hounds.
McIlroy and Woods entered the WGC-Match-Play tournament as the #1 and #2 seeds, but were each summarily dispatched in the first round. With their weekend wide open following their elimination from the tournament, the two decided to get together for a little friendly competition at Woods’ home golf course in Hobe Sound, Florida.
Details are sketchy as to what actually occurred, but according to McIlroy, the two played two separate 18-hole matches and Tiger won the first, and Rory prevailed in the second.
The specific details of how the private competition went is less interesting than the fact that it occurred at all. Not only have Rory and Tiger emerged as the two best — and most marketable — golfers on the planet, but they also seem to have become BFFs, or at least are friendly enough that they might get together for a casual round of golf on an off day.
The golfing establishment has been salivating over the possibility of the two prolific golfers formulating an intense rivalry that might resemble the old Arnold Palmer/Jack Nicklaus competition of yore. It appears that this rivalry will be a bit more congenial than Palmer and Nicklaus, who respected one another but didn’t particularly care for one another’s company.
Despite the fact that McIlroy and Woods have together been at or near the top of the World Golf Rankings for the past couple years, there has yet to be an opportunity in which the two have been paired together during the final rounds of a major competition.
In fact, the closest the two have come to a toe-to-toe PGA tour competition is during last year’s Honda Classic, when a late charge by Woods came up just short as McIlroy held onto a big lead to emerge as the winner by two strokes over Tiger, who shot a final round 62 to put the pressure on Rory.
Interestingly enough, it is the same Honda Classic that will play host to both golfers this weekend down the road in Palm Beach, Florida.
Tiger will be looking to capitalize on his victory at Torrey Pines last month, while McIroy will be seeking his first solid performance of 2013, having failed miserably at Abu Dhabi (where he failed to make the cut, as did Woods) and then again in the opener of the match-play competition (a fate that also befell Tiger).
So while both of the world’s top-ranked golfers have struggled a bit in 2013, Tiger has the victory to go with his subpar performances, while Rory has only an avalanche of publicity following him with regards to his recent equipment switch to Nike.
The eyes of the sports world will be on these two men this year and beyond, with many hoping that the two – whether they are buddies or not – formulate a rivalry on par with some of the greatest in sports history:
Can Woods/McIlroy crack that list?
Only time will tell.
Scott McCormick’s biggest golf rival is his wife. His golf commentary appears courtesy of discount golf provider GolfNow. For more of his recent writing, see his opinion piece on the belly putter controversy.