Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy well beaten by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas at Pelican Golf Club
Tiger Woods’ return to action in The Match captured the attention and saw huge money raised for Hurricane Ian relief, but as a competitive spectacle it was a damp squib as the 15-time major winner and Rory McIlroy were blown away 3&2 by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
In Woods’ first appearance since missing the cut at the Open Championship in July, there were concerns about his fitness due to both the leg injury he suffered in a car crash in 2021 and the plantar fasciitis that forced him to withdraw from the Hero World Challenge last week.
Under floodlights at Pelican Golf Club, Woods’ opening tee shot was excellent, but that was one of the few highlights as he struggled for consistency and still looked restricted in his movement despite having the use of a cart.
Spieth and Thomas have a phenomenal record as a team, they won all four of their matches together at the Presidents Cup earlier in the year, and were in ruthless mood.
“It was awesome,” Spieth said. “What an experience. I was super anxious to get going and not knowing what it would be like.
“Having my partner alongside me makes it a lot easier, we got comfortable out there and made some birdies.”
Woods said he had not picked up a club in over two weeks after being struck down by plantar fasciitis. His opening tee shot was excellent, with his ball coming up just short of the green on the 310-yard par-four – and it helped him secure a half on the opening hole as he matched Thomas’ birdie.
On the second, Woods leaked his drive to the right and hit a poor approach. McIlroy made a comfortable par, but Thomas poured in a 25-footer to take the hole and strike first blood.
The third hole was the first of the challenge holes, with Spieth securing $250,000 for Hurricane Ian relief by getting nearest to the pin. With Woods finding the bunker and McIlroy failing to drain his putt, Spieth holed his birdie putt to move the youngsters two to the good.
The fourth was a one-club challenge, and caused issues for all four players. Woods took a five-iron and hit two big hooks, McIlroy found a divot off the tee with a three-iron and then hit his ball into the pine straw.
Spieth with a four-iron looked the most comfortable in terms of yardage, but it was Thomas who won the hole in rather fortuitous circumstances. With five-wood in hand, his second shot looked destined for the water beyond the green but hit a cart and bounced back towards the putting surface. He got down in two for a par to extend the lead to three holes.
The fifth was halved in threes as McIlroy’s putt for a birdie and a win horseshoed around the hole, and Thomas passed up a chance to extend the advantage on the sixth when missing a seven-footer following an excellent approach to the long par-four.
Thomas was made to rue his short missed putt, as McIlroy got one back for his team on the seventh. It seemed unlikely off the tee as he went way left but threaded his second through the trees, sent his approach to 15 feet and found the middle of the cup, as Thomas’ putt for a half slipped by on the low side.
There was some good-natured trash-talking, and Spieth taunted Woods and McIlroy on the eighth green. Thomas had a putt to win the hole and as his partner was lining it up, Spieth said: “How do you feel right now Tiger and Rory? Do you feel like you are going to escape this? Because I have this feeling.”
Seconds later, Thomas’ downhill putt from 10 feet caught the left edge and dropped in to restore their three-stroke advantage.
With one of his better shots of the event, Woods won $250,000 for Hurricane Ian relief when getting nearest the pin on the ninth. He was unable to make the putt, as Spieth and Thomas went dormie at three up and three up play.
At dormie three, the exhibition golf came out from Thomas. With his partner’s approach on the 10th finishing six feet from the cup, he played a swinging hook to catch the slope and bring the ball down to four feet.
McIlroy answered with an excellent approach of his own and made birdie, but Spieth stroked his into the centre of the cup to secure a 3&2 win.
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