Belek, Turkey: Tiger Woods beat Rory McIlroy by six strokes on Thursday to advance to the semi-finals of the World Golf Final, turning the first head-to-head match between the world's top two players into a one-sided contest. McIlroy, No. 1 in the world, was eliminated from the $5.2 million exhibition after slumping to a third consecutive group match defeat on a day of low scoring at the Antalya Golf Club.
Woods shot 7-under 64 for a second straight victory and will face Justin Rose of England in the semi-finals later on Thursday. "It felt good and I really hit it good out there," said Woods, who won just a half-point from four matches in the US team's loss to Europe in the Ryder Cup last month. "My game is starting to turn around a bit and I am beginning to hit it like I did at the start of the year."
Rose shot a course-record 62 to beat US Open champion Webb Simpson by five strokes and also stay perfect in the event, which has a first prize of $1.5 million. Charl Schwartzel shot an 8-under 63 to defeat American Matt Kuchar by two strokes for his third straight win. The South African, who won the 2011 Masters, will next play Lee Westwood after the fourth-ranked Englishman shot 64 to beat Hunter Mahan by three strokes.
McIlroy will leave Turkey with a check for $300,000 but still has to return on Friday for a pro-am involving all eight competitors after the final. The Northern Irishman hit his tee shot on the first hole into the water and wasn't under par for the round until he birdied No. 17.
"I'm not that disappointed because I've got the afternoon off around the pool," said McIlroy, who was cheered on by his girlfriend, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. "I just came here because I have never played in Turkey and there's a lot of good players here, and I thought it would be a fun week and it has been," McIlroy said.
McIlroy shot rounds of 76, 71 and 70 — the first time he shot back-to-back scores in the 70s since finishing in 60th place at the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's in July.
Players returned to action on Thursday morning after the final group matches were suspended on Wednesday because of thunderstorms. McIlroy was the only player not to shoot a round in the 60s, with Rose particularly impressive to finish at the top of Group Two.
"It was a good game out there," Rose said. "[I] ended up 9 under and Webb was 5 under but it was a much closer game than that. I've now got Tiger later ... and it looks like that will be a tough game as he is playing well and got himself into some form."