PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods got to play a match Sunday. Just not the match they wanted.
After both players were bounced in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, they played a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-a-shot 36 holes at The Medalist in Hobe Sound.
“We thought we’d play our own Match Play final,” McIlroy said Tuesday, smiling.
The top two players in the world would have met in the Match Play finals had they won their first five matches. For the record, McIlroy said Woods won Sunday’s first 18-hole match and McIlroy won the second 18.
What was most amazing was the length of time it took them to play the 36 holes: About five hours.
“We teed off at about 8 and I was home by 1:30,” McIlroy said. “So we played quick. (Tiger) putts with (the) pin in. I mean, it’s just – it’s speed golf.”
Woods had hoped to host President Obama at The Medalist two weeks ago, but instead played 18 holes with him at Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City.
McIlroy defends his Honda Classic title this week. He won last year’s PGA Tour event by two shots, holding off Woods’ final-round 62 to take over the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.
Calc’s Honda streak ends: It’s not often you see a major champion who has won a PGA Tour event twice try to Monday qualify for that tournament.
But that’s what Mark Calcavecchia did Monday, hoping to extend his streak of having played in the Honda Classic to 27 consecutive years. He missed by five shots after a 71, but he wasn’t the only former major champion that failed to qualify.
Rich Beem and Lee Janzen also were in the Monday qualifier at Mayacoo Lakes, as well as Shane Lowry, who upset McIlroy in the first round of Match Play, and Alexander Noren, who’s ranked 49th in the world.
“That was an all-star field,” Calcavecchia said.
It wasn’t that long ago when Honda struggled to attract a quality field; this Monday qualifier was almost as good as some of the Honda fields a decade ago. But that has changed as Honda has five player in this week’s top 10 (McIlroy, Woods, No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen, No. 6 Justin Rose and No. 9 Lee Westwood).
Calcavecchia, who said he last tried to Monday qualify in the mid-1980s, received a sponsor exemption last year, but didn’t ask for one this year after he learned Honda’s unrestricted sponsor exemptions were cut from six to two. (That’s the case for most PGA Tour events this year to give their members more playing opportunities as the Tour switches to an overlapping schedule.) Those went to Brendan Grace and Matteo Manassero (No. 47 in the world).
“Not making it isn’t the end of the world,” Calcavecchia said. “It was like ‘no harm, no foul.’ ”
Calcavecchia should be back in the Honda field next year. The Tequesta resident plans on taking his one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the all-time money list. He said he will do it for the 2013-2014 season because he can play in the fall events this year, as well as next year’s early-season tournaments. He won Honda in 1987, 1998 and contended as recently as 2008 (T4) and 2009 (T29).
Joining Noren as qualifiers with 66s were former PGA Tour winner Vaughn Taylor, European Tour winner Jamie Donaldson and Darron Stiles. Other locals who didn’t qualify: Olin Browne (69) of Hobe Sound, Krister Eriksson (69), Jim Herman (70) and Nyasha Mauchaza (73) of Port St. Lucie.
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