Tough day: Rory McIlroy speaks with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki at the World Golf Final in Turkey
Big-time golf in Turkey got off to the most unedifying start imaginable with the organiser accused of butting a photographer who was trying to take pictures of Tiger Woods.
As so often happens when the American visits pastures new, Woods' presence on the first tee created an almighty commotion. What doesn't normally happen is that a photographer ends up with his glasses broken and then goes marching down to the police station to file an official complaint.
It should be pointed out that Ahmet Agaoglu, chairman of the Turkish Golf Federation, strenuously denied butting the cameraman working for the Cihan News Agency. ‘He pushed me and I pushed him back and he fell over,’ said Agaoglu. But the police will inevitably be involved, raising the possibility that Woods might even be called on as a witness.
Ahmet’s day hardly improved as Woods went on to lose to Charl Schwartzel and Rory McIlroy was defeated by American Matt Kuchar. Perhaps it is just as well the first Turkish Airlines World Golf Final is not straight matchplay but a round-robin affair, otherwise the commotion on the first tee would have been replaced on Wednesday by an ethereal hush.
What those two defeats mean, however, is that the Woods-McIlroy dream final cannot happen. Woods plays Kuchar on Wednesday morning and McIlroy takes on Schwartzel. If they both win, their match after lunch will be a spicy straight knockout affair to see who goes through to the semi-final alongside the winner of Schwartzel-Kuchar.
Play time: Webb Simpson hits a ball thrown by Tiger Woods on the range after day one in Antalya
Beaming: Woods smiles for a picture taken by Charl Schwartzel on the range after their match in Turkey
If both lose they will both be knocked out, which would render their afternoon match the most lucrative, high-profile exercise in pointlessness the world has ever seen.
McIlroy’s collapse was spectacular by any standards and extraordinary given he is the world No 1. After 14 holes the game was level, only for the Northern Irishman to go triple bogey, double bogey, double bogey. The first of those calamitous scores left him three shots behind with three holes to play and he admitted he ‘gave up a bit’ at that point.
Matt finish: McIlroy was soundly beaten by Kuchar after a run of triple-bogey, double-bogey, double-bogey
Bad day at the office: Woods lost out by one shot to Schwartzel after a bogey on the 18th
RESULTS AND MATCHES TO PLAY
Tuesday - Charl Schwartzel (SA) bt Tiger Woods (US) by one shot; Justin Rose (Eng) bt Hunter Mahan (US) by four; Matt Kuchar (US) bt Rory McIlroy (NI) by six; Lee Westwood (Eng) bt Webb Simpson (US) by one.
Wednesday - 6:30am: Westwood v Rose; 6:40am: Mahan v Simpson; 6:50am: McIlroy v Schwartzel; 7am: Woods v Kuchar; 11am: Rose v Simpson; 11:10am: Westwood v Mahan; 11:20am: Schwartzel v Kuchar; 11:30am: McIlroy v Woods.
Thursday semi-finals: Group A winner v Group B runner-up (9am); Group B winner v Group A runner-up (9:10am). Friday — final, 8:30 am.
Full marks as ever for honesty to McIlroy, but he really has to get out of the habit.
To be fair, most of the time he has made great strides forward in getting rid of his tendency for his shoulders to slump when things go wrong, as American Paul Azinger put it. But there is clearly a bit of work to do yet.
His opponent really shouldn’t be in a position to make remarks such as Kuchar’s telling comment: ‘You could tell he lost a bit of interest.’
Three down with three to go is far from a lost cause in this format, particularly for someone blessed with McIlroy’s gifts. You can guarantee Woods wouldn’t be ‘losing a bit of interest’ if he was three down with one to play, for example.
We wear short shorts: Lee Westwood (left) and Schwartzel (right) show off their pins thanks to relaxed rules
In group two, Justin Rose played well enough from tee to green to compensate for some poor work with the putter and overcome Hunter Mahan by four shots. Alongside him in pole position to make it through to the semi-finals is fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, who beat Webb Simpson by a stroke after the US Open champion bogeyed the 18th hole.
The other thing of note was the fact, for the first time in a leading professional event, the players were allowed to wear shorts if they chose. Four of the eight-man field took up the option. Intriguingly, all four matches featured one man wearing long trousers and his opponent wearing shorts.
The result of that little game-within-a-game was three to one in favour of the men trying something new.