Apologies for the delay in posting this write-up on The Match at Mission Hills between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods that happened on Monday, which Rory ended up besting Tiger by a shot — not that it mattered since they were both getting a payday of over a million dollars for just showing up.
First of all, much of the reason I traveled all the way to China was to experience the golf and the crowds at the tournaments. Obviously, the Match was an exhibition, so the rules and regulations for the fans were much looser, to say the least, than they will be at this week’s HSBC Champions, which I expect will be more organized and contained. Plus, Tiger isn’t playing there and his presence at Mission Hills is mostly why the throngs were going so nuts — they love “Lao Hu” (Chinese for “Tiger”).
I’d read and heard a ton of complaints and comments from the Western press and players about the unruly galleries, and the answer for the problem was that the Chinese don’t understand the game, and therefore, don’t know how to behave properly. It’s partly a cultural issue and it’s also ignorance in some part.
Now that I’ve experienced the pure insanity, especially for the first three holes before organizers got the crowd under control, but it was also kind of intriguing to see and take in the atmosphere created by both the bedlam and raw fanaticism. The fans act so uncivilized because they’re massive sporting fans. They don’t get to see Tiger Woods (or Rory McIlroy), like, ever, and even on TV, it’s a rare treat.
I’m Chinese-American and I was raised by somewhat traditional Chinese parents, yet they’re were brought up in Taiwan (in the post-1949 revolution era), which is also culturally distinct, but I still had trouble grasping the behavior of these Chinese crazed fans.
However, I did walk away with a better understanding and here’s my attempt to explain it: Culturally, the Chinese see things as black and white and they’re not able to put things into context. So, when they’re at a “sporting” event — a la a soccer match — they think they’re supposed to act nutty and crazy, and again like I said, 99.9% of the people had never stepped foot on a golf course before Monday. They have never swung a golf club. They don’t know the Rules of Golf (which aren’t complicated or anything!). They don’t know the meaning of golf etiquette.
As you’ll see from the photos and videos below, there were people running and carousing and acting like un-golf-y crowds. What’s wrong the Chinese? Well, you see, golf is still a “rich man’s sport” — as Rory described it in his post-win presser — so the average individual doesn’t understand the game, which is a different one than it is traditionally speaking in a way.
It’s an upperclass sport and serves as a status symbol, so Chinese golf isn’t exactly the same game we play in the United States or anywhere else in the world where it has deep-seeded roots. I’ll get into that more later when I write about my own experiences playing at three of Mission Hills Hainan Island’s 10 golf courses.
Tiger, who was incredibly ill due to a bug he picked up from his seven-year-old daughter, and Rory were mic’ed up, which resulted in an enthralling viewing experience for those watching outside the U.S (and lots of cursing and hacking up loogies by Woods). Even just hanging out near the practice green before The Match was interesting to eavesdrop on their conversations.
As they were about to head to the first tee, Rory was talking about the Korea Open, where he placed T2, mostly thanks to a rules controversy. Tiger asked Rory, “Dude, what happened with that ruling?”
Rory started to give the basic rundown, but Tiger wanted the details, as in, he wanted Rory to demonstrate what happened with Kim Hyung-tae that resulted in a two-shot penalty costing him the win.
Rory and Tiger also talked geeky equipment stuff, like about the new prototype ball and Covert 2.0 driver, which Rory was using on Monday.
“I obviously love both of them,” said McIlroy of the softer-covered ball and more-forgiving driver in the post-exhibition presser.
“It’s much better,” he added. “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.”
Rory pulling tricks on the putting green before teeing off:
Rory and Tiger peg it on no. 1:
Trying to reign in the crowd…
Tiger dropping F-bombs and “GDs” all day long as if he forgot he was mic’ed up or just didn’t care:
The event was sponsored by Omega, but of course Tiger is a Rolex guy. The microphones caught Steiny “reminding” his client to flash that Rolex in front of all the Omega signs/clocks. He laughed, which implied he was “joking,” but well, I think he was and he wasn’t…
That’s not all Steinberg said throughout the day. With all the mayhem, he was barking orders left and right and policing the crowd. At one point early in the round, he snapped at tournament organizers that he’d pull his player off the course if they didn’t get things under control. I guess that’s how he earns his check, though. Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Team Rory was much more at ease, with McIlroy just seeming to go with the flow.