McIlroy-Woods face-off guaranteed in new big-money exhibition in Turkey

Rory McIlroy at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final
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Rory McIlroy said Monday that he hasn't touched his clubs since the Ryder Cup ended eight days ago.
By news services

Series: Other Tour

Published: Monday, October 08, 2012 | 5:09 p.m.

BELEK, Turkey -- The one thing lacking from the sensational Ryder Cup at Medinah will take place in Turkey this week, with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods facing each other at least once in the battle for a first prize of $1.5 million.

McIlroy and Woods, the world's top two players and biggest attractions, didn’t cross paths for the second Ryder Cup in succession in Chicago. However, the duo have been drawn in the same group at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, a new eight-man exhibition event that features a total purse of $5.3 million with $1.5 million to the winner and even $300,000 for the last-place finisher.

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2012 Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar complete Group One, with Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson in Group Two.

The format at the Antalya Golf Club is medal match play -- head-to-head matches with the lowest strokeplay score over 18 holes winning one point. Each player will play three matches in the group stages; one on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.

The winner of Group One will then face the runner-up of Group Two, and vice versa, in Thursday's semifinals, with the final to be staged on Friday.

McIlroy and Woods will not face each other until the final group match on Wednesday, by which time they could already be through to the semifinals if they win their opening two games.

The tournament will go on despite continued violence in southern Turkey, tournament officials. The Turkish military has been firing across Turkey’s southern border into Syria for a week now in response to bomb from Syria that landed in the southeastern Turkish border town of Akcakale, according to Reuters.

Syrian rebels control considerable territory in northern Syria near the Turkish border and are actively battling the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrians aren’t believed to be firing into Turkey on purpose, but the Turkish government has repeatedly said it would retaliate against any attacks on its people.

The tournament is being played in Antalya, a popular Turkish vacation spot on the southweastern coast several hundred miles away from the military action.

Unsurprisingly, the event has not gone down well with either the European Tour or PGA Tour, although it will finish on Friday so as not to clash with weekend coverage of the Portuguese Masters or the Open in California. It is an unofficial event, so the earnings won’t count on any money list and no world ranking points will be awarded.

McIlroy revealed he had not touched a club since the Ryder Cup finished in such dramatic fashion last Sunday, with the world No. 1 winning his third point from five matches by beating Keegan Bradley in the singles -- despite his much-publicized late arrival due to a time-zone mix-up.

"The majority of the players this week played in the Ryder Cup, and it was very nice to be part of that winning side," McIlroy said. "I'm still trying to come down from the high of it.

"Sunday was a great night, although we were all still in disbelief that we had pulled it off. I watched Justin (Rose) hole his winning putt on 18 against Phil Mickelson with Ian Poulter and we both said at the same time, 'We could do this."'

Europe recovered from 10-6 down on the final day at Medinah, winning the first five singles matches and eventually eight of the 12 with one half, but McIlroy added: "The most important part of the Ryder Cup was winning the last two fourballs on Saturday afternoon, Luke (Donald) and Sergio (Garcia) before us and then what Poulter did the last five holes."

What Poulter did alongside McIlroy was birdie the last five holes in a row to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, a display that left even the two-time major winner in disbelief.

"I think you can see that with a few of my expressions," McIlroy added. "It was like I just needed to put my ball in my pocket the last five holes.

"I have experienced it before when you feel like you are in the zone but to see someone doing it under that pressure is very, very impressive. His caddie said 'Why can't he do that in normal tournaments, too?' but Poults is Mr. Ryder Cup."

As for the prospect of facing Woods this week, McIlroy added: "It's something I am looking forward to. Tiger has been a hero of mine growing up so to compete against him is a dream come true.

"This will be the first match we have had head-to-head and it's a match I would really like to win," he added. "It's a bit different to the Ryder Cup because it's medal match play and it will be a bit more relaxed than the final day of a major, but I think we will both be trying to beat each other.

"I haven't touched a club since the Ryder Cup so I am going to get to the course a little early tomorrow to hit a few balls and see if it's still there. And I will make sure I am in the right time zone!"