Tiger eclipsed by Rory's rescues

 

Abu Dhabi Golf Club

Rory McIlroy chose the perfect day on which to perform his young Tiger Woods impersonation. With the 14-time major winner looking on, his would-be heir performed golfing alchemy by turning a 72 into a 67 to take the first-day lead in the Abu Dhabi Championship yesterday.

What made McIlroy's great escape seem even greater was Woods did the opposite. A 70 to lie three off the pace was hardly disastrous, but when he analysed his stats afterwards he realised the number should have been so much smaller. He missed only four fairways, hit 17 out of 18 greens in regulation – but took 34 putts. Rory missed eight fairways, hit just 12 greens in regulation – but took 25 putts. And therein tells the story of this pair's opening to the 2012 season.

"It felt the same as it had from Oz [Australia] to the Chevron World Challenge to here," Woods said of the most recent tournaments he played before taking the festive break. "I controlled my ball all day and just had a hard time getting a feel for these greens. Rory didn't quite hit the ball as he would like, but he chipped and putted well. It was good to watch."

For "good" read tortuous as McIlroy forced him to peer at his former self. The penultimate hole [the eighth] was a classic momentum-turner of the Tiger variety. Woods was 60 yards off the par-five green in two, while McIlroy drove into the rough, hit his second across the fairway into the rough, then hit his approach into the greenside rough. And then he holed it for a birdie, as Woods chunked his chip and trudged off for his par. Let's just call it a Rory moment.

There were quite a few of them in a five-under round which tied him at the top of the leader board with the big Swede Robert Karlsson. Followed by a sizeable early-mooring crowd, which included Sir Ian Botham and Michael Vaughan before they had to scoot off to the nearby Pakistan-England Test, McIlroy began quickly with three birdies in four holes. Yet from there the big club began to misbehave.

Good job the shorter clubs decided to be obedient, as did Lady Luck. The latter was best summed up by his second on the par-five 18th (his ninth), which in McIlroy's words "disappeared into the hospitality tent and is probably still in someone's lunch". McIlroy duly got up and down from the drop-zone for a birdie and so it continued.

"It's funny, I said to Tiger out there, 'I've got to hit a few more fairways' and he said, 'It doesn't look like you need to from where I'm standing'," said McIlroy, whose friendship with Woods is clearly growing. "It's something I felt I improved a lot last year. Even if I don't play well, I can still get it around. It makes a huge difference."

McIlroy then headed to the range to work on his driving, although he confessed some mental work could be just as beneficial. Golfers very rarely admit they were dragged into a long-driving contest, but with the sweet-hitting Woods knocking it past him, McIlroy could not resist. "It did cross my mind a couple of times," he said. "When you see a guy hitting it out there, you want to try to keep up with him."

Poor old Luke Donald was often 30 yards behind his playing partners, but, as he does, the world No 1 still managed to cajole it in for a 71. Looking at the physique of the trio, the differential in length seemed directly attributable to the amount of muscle. Donald is actually "sneaky buff", as they say Stateside, but there's nothing sneaky about the bulk on the frames of Woods and McIlroy.

Tiger has long been a gym addict, but in the last 12 months Rory has been bitten by the bug as well and the effect is so plain to see – on both his scales and his scorecards. "I had a weak left side," said the 22-year-old. "I could create a lot of power and speed on the way down, but I couldn't hold it through impact. So I've got a lot stronger and it's definitely helped my game."

Woods could only nod. Strength of mind, strength of body, strength of purpose. As well as a few miracles, of course.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment