Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy tune up
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The dream scenario would have been to have them meet in the finals on Sunday of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
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The Nos. 1 and 2 players in the world in a head-to-head duel for the title.
"We thought we would play our own match play final, except it was over 36 [holes],'' McIlroy said Tuesday at PGA National, where he will defend his title this week at the Honda Classic.
McIlroy said he and Woods hooked up for a friendly round on Sunday -- the same day Matt Kuchar was defeating Hunter Mahan in the final of the WGC-Match Play -- at the Medalist Golf Club, Woods' home course in Hobe Sound, Fla.
They played so quickly that McIlroy was back at his Florida home in Jupiter before the Match Play final began.
• Defending champion: Rory McIlroy
• Experts' picks | FOREcaster
• Venue: PGA National Resort & Spa, par-70, 7,241 yards
• Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
• TV coverage: Thu., Fri. 3-6 p.m. ET on Golf Channel; Sat., Sun. 1-3 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET on NBC
• Dates: Thursday-Sunday
• Payout: 144-man field with winner earning $1,026,000 of $6 million purse
• Format: 72-hole stroke play with cut to low 70 and ties
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"It was good,'' McIlroy said. "It was the first time I've actually been up at the Medalist. It's nice. We teed off at about 8 a.m. and I was home by 1:30 p.m. We played quick. [Woods] putts with the pin in. It was speed golf. It was good. It was really enjoyable.''
McIlroy didn't offer a lot of details, other than to say there were two matches, with Woods prevailing over the first 18 holes and McIlroy taking the second.
They play for real again starting Thursday at the Honda Classic, where McIlroy prevailed by 2 strokes a year ago over Woods, who shot a final-round 62. McIlroy was ranked No. 1 in the world for the first time after that victory and added four more worldwide victories, including three on the PGA Tour and his second major title: the PGA Championship.
Woods won three times last year on the PGA Tour and achieved his 75th PGA Tour title last month at the Farmers Insurance Open, a week after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi.
McIlroy also missed the cut at the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi, having shot a pair of 75s while playing with Woods. He then lost in the first round of the Match Play to Ireland's Shane Lowry with another indifferent performance. Had he been counting strokes, McIlroy again would have shot 75.
That, of course, has led to continued questions about his change in equipment this year to Nike, a well-publicized and lucrative move that remains a work in progress.
"It's still an adjustment period,'' McIlroy said. "It's going to be a gradual thing. There's obviously a bit of an overlap there and you have to just try and get your way into it as best you can.
"But as I've said the last few weeks, it's more about how I'm swinging the club. That's the real concern ... well, it's not a concern for me, but I would like to get back to where I was, say, the middle of last year. Because if you put my swing now up against the way I was swinging it last year, it's chalk and cheese. So that's the real thing that I'm working on.''
McIlroy was the player of the year on both the PGA Tour and European Tour in 2012 and then showed up in Abu Dhabi to great fanfare with the long-expected news that he was switching to Nike.
While players alter their equipment constantly, McIlroy's high profile and that of Nike -- which has sponsored Woods since he turned pro in 1996 -- heightened the interest, which has not waned as he struggled.
"I felt like when I turned up in Abu Dhabi, I was pretty much ready, but you never really know until you play competitive rounds,'' he said. "That shored up a few things in my swing and in the equipment and I went and rectified that.
"Last week I felt I drove the ball very well, which was a huge positive, because that was sort of the glaring weakness in my game in Abu Dhabi.''
McIlroy is scheduled to play next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami and the Shell Houston Open, his last two events prior to the Masters.
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