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Manufactured showpieces are nothing but a massive turn-off

There's nothing worse than being involved in forced fun; those kind of stage-managed affairs where enjoyment is demanded despite a backdrop of yawning, widespread apathy.

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods  met in the recent Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods met in the recent Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

It breeds the kind of strained joviality usually reserved for people who have been asked to play musical chairs on a sinking ship or pull Christmas crackers on a plane that's hurtling towards a crash landing. The heart's not really in it.

The other week, the heart was certainly not in it for Rory McIlroy as he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods in the much-hyped and eagerly anticipated clash of the titans at the lavish, invitation-only bash that was the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final. The young Northern Irishman had tried his best to sound enthused about the whole event, mind you. "Tiger has been a hero of mine growing up, so to compete against him is a dream come true," said the world No.1 at the time, as eager onlookers drooled with excitement. "This will be the first match we have had head-to-head, and it's a match I would really like to win."

We all know what happened, of course. The joust had all the competitive fire of a whist drive at the Women's Rural and Woods ambled to a six-stroke victory. Asked if he was disappointed by the trouncing, McIlroy shrugged his shoulders and said: "Not really, I've got an afternoon by the pool, I don't mind."

Next week in China, McIlroy, who has already stated that he is looking to trim his global schedule for 2013, will have to rouse himself for another needless exhibition when he faces Woods again in an 18-hole medal match. Woods is already in the Far East this week, and will play in the limited field CIMB Classic in Malaysia, while McIlroy is in a star-studded line-up in Shanghai for the BMW Masters as the season draws to a busy conclusion.

There are still gaps in the schedule to shoehorn more in, though, and the end result is that we now have an extravaganza that has been dubbed the "Duel at Lake Jinsha" in a bold attempt to stir up some form of excitement. All it is, really, as Woods' manager Mark Steinberg suggested, is "customer entertainment", a point and gorp fun-fest that will be full of back slapping, handshakes and smile- for-the-cameras camaraderie. It's a shame a genuine golfing rivalry has to be dragged down to such a level of corporate compliance.

"It'll be fun to battle him for the next decade or so and hopefully we'll have many battles to come," said Woods recently. That would be nice to see, but a true golfing battle is what everybody would want, not just some half-hearted hit about.

From the days of Nicklaus versus Palmer or Nicklaus versus Watson, the great rivalries of the game have enthralled and excited. We have been intrigued by thoughts of McIlroy and Woods going toe-to-toe for years and it remains a fascinating prospect, particularly as world No.2 Woods, the deposed and disgraced king and a winner of 14 majors, continues his clamber back towards something resembling his previous majesty. Yet forcing two powers to collide on a pointless platform sullies something that should be cherished. A final-day shoot-out down the closing few holes of a major championship, with all the tension, twists and turns, would certainly get the juices flowing but a pre-arranged, sauntering showpiece remains a huge turn off.

Something far more engaging were the efforts on Sunday night of Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, who won the McGladrey Classic, his 105th PGA Tour start, with a spectacular closing round of 60. The 37-year-old, whose putt of 20 feet on the last for a 59 narrowly missed, is one of those players you like to see coming out on top. The fact that he wears two gloves – one on each hand whatever the weather – gives him that quirky factor while his swing and baseball-like grip proves that when you're drinking the celebratory champagne, it doesn't matter how you got the cork out of the bottle.

You certainly won't find the ungainly Gainey anywhere in the coaching manual, with his swipe that looks a bit like someone trying to chop firewood after half-a-dozen pints but, amid the eccentricities of the movement, he knows how to get the clubface square at impact and that's all the matters. Golf is not a beauty pageant, after all.

Last week, during a ClubGolf day at Gleneagles, Andrew Coltart made the simple observation about the over-emphasis on technicalities that, more often than not, become a hindrance rather than a help. "It's not about artistic expression or worrying about how you swing the club, it's about what score you put down on the card," he said.

Gainey, who toiled away on a variety of mini-tours, used to wrap insulation round hot-water heaters on an assembly line before he turned professional, but there's certainly nothing manufactured about this popular golfing grafter.

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