HAIKOU, CHINA — Rory McIlroy won for the first time this year — even if it was an 18-hole exhibition against Tiger Woods.
McIlroy made four birdies and an eagle over the last seven holes at Mission Hills for a 6-under 67, giving him a one-shot win over Woods. It was the second straight year McIlroy has defeated Woods at the medal match in China.
“I would like to play all my tournaments in China where I can beat Tiger,” McIlroy said.
Even an unofficial win has to count for something. McIlroy beat him last year at Jinsha Lake under far different circumstances. McIlroy was a major champion, No. 1 in the world and on his way to sweeping all the important awards. He signed a lucrative deal with Nike a short time later, and this season has been a struggle. McIlroy has had only one reasonable chance to win a tournament, and he didn’t even qualify for the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.
He is using a new driver and a softer golf ball, even prompting Woods to say to him after one chip, “How did you do that?”
The banter was free and easy, mostly about equipment. Woods was trying to recover from a virus he picked up from his daughter, and spent most of the afternoon asking his caddie for cough drops.
Woods had a one-shot lead and hit a marvelous approach to 10 feet on the par-5 12th. McIlroy followed with a long iron into 5 feet, and both made eagle.