Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy Q&A transcript from Mission Hills, China.
A resurgent Rory McIlroy shot a six-under-par 67 to beat World No. 1 Tiger Woods by a shot to win The Match at Mission Hills, the duo’s 18-hole showdown on Hainan Island off the south coast of China.
McIlroy, the World No. 6, carded an eagle, seven birdies, one bogey and a double-bogey over the 7,301-yard par-73 Blackstone Course to edge his great rival and friend at the 180-hole Mission Hills Haikou resort.
“The crowds that came out to watch us today were absolutely phenomenal,” said McIlroy, who was familiar with the Blackstone layout after competing in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup two years ago.
“It’s great to be back here again at Mission Hills Haikou and play this wonderful golf course. It brings back some great memories from playing at the World Cup a couple of years ago. It was great to come out on top again, but also it’s great to bring these sort of events to China and inspire the next generation of Chinese golfers.”
Below is a transcript from the press conference at Mission Hills with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, including some input from Chinese golf prodigy Guan Tianlang.
MODERATOR: Dr. Ken Chu, since you are one of the key promoters of the event, what do you make of the whole event as a summary?
DR. KEN CHU: Have you seen the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? It's a very popular Chinese movie. Your name is Tiger, I was born in the year of Tiger, so we're Tigers.
And then Rory, you're born in the year of the snake, so snake in Chinese is also known as the dragon, and Tenniel was born in the year of the dragon, so that's where we have something in common. It's the crouching Tiger and flying dragon.
Q. Tiger, before you teed off, you didn't sound well and you weren't feeling that good. I heard on the chatter between you and Rory, your fever broke late in the round. How bad were you sort of struggling out there physically?
TIGER WOODS: I mean, obviously you can hear, I probably don't sound my best. But it's nice that it was warm out there today. That certainly helps. I'm hoping that my fever broke and that I'm going to start feeling a little bit better.
But I tell you what, when you have kids, they bring home some strong stuff. So this one was definitely kicking my butt for the last few days.
Q. How do you feel about golf in the Olympics?
RORY McILROY: I think the inclusion of golf in the Olympics is a great thing. It's great for the growth of the game. It gets countries like China interested in golf. And not just to develop Olympic champions, but just being an Olympic sport, it means something; it means something just more.
You know, you are going to see a lot of new people and new countries and junior golfers come into golf because it's an Olympic sport. I think golf can only gain from its inclusion in the Olympics, and you know, I think it's a great thing.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, just like what Rory said, I think having the inclusion of the golf in the Olympics is only just going to grow the game of golf in countries like China and other places around the world that don't have the tradition to play golf, it's fantastic.
So many young kids are going to be introduced to this great game. I've seen my time here in the last 12, 13 years, I've seen the growth and development of these junior golfers, and Guan making it to the Masters at age 14 just goes to show you what's going to happen and what's going to come down the pipeline the next 15, 20 years down the road, it's going to be quite amazing to see.
Q. Your former coach also had some cooperation with Mission Hills in the past. Would you actually be interested in having further collaboration in terms of the youth golf clinic and so forth with Mission Hills down the line?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that's one of the reasons why I've come over to China and I've played. I've enjoyed coming to Mission Hills on several different occasions, and just being in China in general. It's been fun to see the Junior golfers develop, and any time I get to come over here, I've always had a great time, and I wanted to come down here and enjoy it more than just the few times that I have over the past few years.
Mission Hills Q&A - Rory talks about his new Nike equipment
Q. You were using the new prototype golf ball today as well as the new 2.0 driver, how is it different from the previous versions?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I've actually put both the new driver and the new ball in play the last couple of weeks I've played. I obviously love both of them. They are both in the bag.
The new ball, the RZN Black, for me, it's got a slightly softer cover, get a bit more spin around the greens. And they have done a great job, because even though they have increased the spin a little bit, it still goes as far as what I'm used to, if not further, a little bit further with the irons.
And the new driver, the Covert 2.0 driver, I went to a slightly bigger head shape, the 460cc and for me it's just slightly more forgiving; off‑center hits seem to go just as well as ones that you catch in the middle.
It's something I struggled with in the past. My bad drive, I catch it out of the heel and then I would lose it right. With this one, it stays a little straighter. So it's definitely more forgiving and it's a great combination.
Q. What is your impression of Haikou and Mission Hills?
RORY McILROY: This is my second time here, and it's such an impressive facility with the hotel, the spa, the golf courses. It's incredible, it really is. It's amazing to think that there's actually another one of these facilities somewhere else, as well. It's incredible.
But it's impressive. I only learned today, I think this is a great initiative, having two golf courses for under 16s free; that is ‑‑ it's incredible. It's such a great thing, and you know, it will bring more and more people, more and more junior golfers to play golf.
I wish back even when I was growing up, which wasn't that long ago, we had places like that that we could come and play golf for free. It doesn't happen very often.
So to make golf more accessible, especially in a country like China where it's seen as a rich man's game, is just ‑‑ it's phenomenal.
Q. Tiger, anything to add on? The gentleman was saying that this is your first visit to Haikou, your impression, and also Mission Hills.
TIGER WOODS: This is my first visit to Haikou and it's absolutely remarkable. As what Rory was alluding to earlier, the fact that you have two golf courses where kids that are 16 and under can play for free, that's how it should be.
And should be like that around the world. We're trying to include more people into the game of golf, and as with the inclusion of it in the Olympics and the initiatives that they have here at Mission Hills, I think it should be duplicated around the world and it definitely is a model that people should be looking at.
Q. What do you make of today?
GUAN TIANLANG: I was so lucky, I was lucky to win the skills challenge today of course, and I'm so thrilled to have a chance to be with you two gentleman here, especially when I was in the States, as well, I had a chance to, for example, view you guys practising and also practice your short games and your technique and so forth. I consider myself very lucky to win this challenge skills today.
Q. How do you feel about your game in general as the season approaches its climax?
RORY McILROY: It's much better. I've seen a lot of promising signs over the past few weeks in practice and also in competitive play. I still have four tournaments left until the end of the season and I would love to finish 2013 strongly and get a little bit of momentum going into next season.
But I think as I showed out there, I'm hitting the ball well. Tee‑to‑green, the game was very solid, and if I can just get the putter going a little bit more and get a few more putts to drop, then in these last four tournaments, I can hope to contend and maybe pick up a win or two.
Q. We all remember 12 years ago, 12 years ago, Mission Hills, bringing world No. 1 Tiger to Shenzhen and to China. After 12 years, you bring it to Haikou and everybody enjoyed the fantastic game of golf. What kind of relationship and friendship have you built on each other for 12 years? And for Tiger, what do you see after 12 years here in China?
DR. KEN CHU: In English, what I just said, 12, is a very meaningful, very special number to Chinese. There's 12 hours in a clock, 12 months in a year, 12 zodiacs, 12 animals in the Chinese calendar year, as well.
So 12, it's a complete circle. We are very proud, very honored to play host to your very first visit to China, and after 12 years, also playing host to your first visit to Hainan Island and China Mainland, as well.
So it's a wonderful relationship that we have had, created, and thank you for all your support to China golf development, appreciate it.
Tiger on the growth of golf in China
Q. Tiger, 12 years, what do you see?
TIGER WOODS: Well, over the 12 years, the first time I came here, there wasn't really any junior golf programs at the time. And now here 12 years later, to see the initiatives and what the Chus have done and what all of China has gotten behind golf in general, especially junior golf. And Guan here is a perfect example of that, playing in the Masters at age 14; granted, I first came here, he was not very old. Still in diapers probably. (Laughter).
It's just pretty remarkable to see the development over this time, and it's exciting to see the development and to see the growth of the game. It's going to be really amazing to see it over the next 15, 20 years, what the landscape of golf is going to look like and how many people are going to be from China or Asia Pacific playing at the world‑class level. It's going to be, a lot of it is due to what the Chus have done in both Mission Hills and their development programs.
Q. After a great season back to world No. 1, are you still confident to break Jack Nicklaus's major record in coming years?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I'm looking forward to obviously next year the major championship venues. All the venues next year I've played well at. So looking forward to next year and I think that my game has certainly gotten better over the last few years as I've gotten more familiar with my technical changes that I've made.
This year, I thought I played really pretty consistent, and I've got a few wins, which was nice. Hopefully next year I can build upon that and add some major championship titles to that, as well.
Q. You had some interaction with Rory and Tiger. What might be the things or anecdotal stories that impressed you most?
GUAN TIANLANG: In the past when I was in the States, I met both of them. We communicated, as well. But I'm so happy and delighted to see them here at Mission Hills.
Regarding technique and regarding experience and some other aspect, I believe that I have really learned a lot from them. They taught me quite a bit and it's such a great feeling to be with them and to actually learn things from them.