sport

McIlroy facing an uphill task

Two eagles in five holes were not enough to prevent Rory McIlroy facing an uphill battle to win his first match in the World Golf Final.

McIlroy, who had not touched a club since the Ryder Cup came to such a thrilling climax nine days ago, looked a touch rusty as he missed the fairway on the first and the green on the par-three second in his clash with American Matt Kuchar - part of the defeated US team at Medinah.

But after pitching to within inches of the hole on both occasions to save par, the 23-year-old then hit a perfect drive on the 531-yard third and a towering long iron to 15ft to set up an eagle three.

Another eagle followed from 50ft on the seventh, but McIlroy also bogeyed the fourth and ninth to reach the turn in 34, one under par, while Kuchar recovered from a bogey on the first to birdie the next two holes and then match McIlroy's eagle on the seventh.

Another birdie on the 10th saw Kuchar move to four under and three clear, but McIlroy responded with a birdie on the 11th to close the gap to two shots.

The format at Antalya Golf Club is medal match play, meaning the lowest strokeplay score over 18 holes wins one point.

Each of the eight players - McIlroy, Kuchar, Tiger Woods, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson - will play three matches in the group stages, one today and two on Wednesday.

The winner of Group One will then face the runner-up of Group Two, and vice versa, in Thursday's semi-finals, with the final to be staged on Friday.

The organisers were no doubt hoping that final would be between Woods and McIlroy, but Woods was three shots down to Schwartzel after 10 holes of their Group One clash.

Woods had been two under through eight holes but pulled his approach to the ninth into water and then three-putted to run up a triple-bogey seven, before Schwartzel birdied the 10th.

Rose was level par and two ahead of Mahan at the turn, while Westwood was two over and two behind Simpson after eight holes.

McIlroy closed within one shot when Kuchar bogeyed the 13th, but Woods was now four adrift of Schwartzel after also dropping a shot on the same hole.

Mahan and Rose were level on two over after 11 holes, while Westwood had birdied the 10th to improve to two over, two behind US Open champion Simpson.

McIlroy drew level when Kuchar bogeyed the 14th, but the world number one then amazingly played the next three holes in seven over par.

Poor drives, one right and one left, led to a triple-bogey seven on the 15th and a double-bogey seven on the 16th, while a duffed chip on the par-three 17th led to another double bogey.

From two under par McIlroy was now five over and six behind Kuchar with one to play.