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The golfers golf, the winds blow, the spectators spectate

Updated: 2012-10-30 08:00
By Tym Glaser in Zhengzhou, Henan province ( China Daily)

The world's two best golfers, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, made their Duel at Jinsha Lake in Zhengzhou look more like a stress-free stroll on Monday, but the thousands of fans who braved the chilly conditions couldn't have cared less.

A gallery conservatively estimated at more than 2,000 happily followed world No 1 McIlroy of Northern Ireland and US great Woods, the No-2 ranked player, for the 18 holes of their stroke-play encounter and rode each drive, chip and putt with great enthusiasm at the Jinsha Lake Golf Club.

At the end of the day, McIlroy's blemish-free 5-under 67 was enough to hold off Woods by a stroke, but the hardy fans were the day's true winners.

The golfers golf, the winds blow, the spectators spectate

"It was a really enjoyable day out there for us and I hope for the Chinese fans," McIlroy said. "It was great to see so many people out there and so many people following golf and wanting to watch us play."

"We had a lot of fun out there," the 36-year-old Woods agreed. "We both played pretty decent we shot some pretty good numbers out there and I think the fans enjoyed it. To have so many people come out and watch us play an exhibition was something special. We are trying to grow the game of golf in this region and it's come a long way since I was first here about 15 years ago."

McIlroy led by two shots at the turn with a front nine that included birdies at the par-4 first and third holes and the par-5 eighth, while Tiger was two back at one-under after birdies at the par-3 fourth and par-4 seventh after an early bogey at the third.

The 23-year-old Ulsterman then completed a bogey-free day on the back nine while adding two more birdies at the par-5 10th and 15th holes. Woods birdied 10 (par-4), 12 (par-3) and 15, but his charge was stymied by a bogey at the par-4 13th.

After overnight and early morning rain, the greens were showing a lot of "stickability", but their pace was proving tricky to read as both players missed short putts they normally would make in their sleep.

They could also have been forgiven for feeling a little jaded after completing tournament assignments in Shanghai (McIlroy) and Malaysia (Woods) the previous day and jetting into Zhengzhou on Sunday night. But, while they were both dressed in gray, which matched the slate-colored sky; there was nothing dull about their play.