Woods, McIlroy in form ahead of China showdown

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy has been top of the world rankings since May's Wells Fargo Championship.

Story highlights

  • Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both shoot opening-round 65s on Thursday
  • World No. 1 McIlroy five under par after the opening round of the BMW Masters
  • 14-time major winner Woods also five under after day one of the CIMB Classic
  • The duo will meet in an exhibition matchplay event in China on Monday

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods warmed up for their much-anticipated showdown in China next week by carding five-under-par opening rounds of 65 in separate Asian events on Thursday.

World No. 1 McIlroy is playing in the European Tour's $7 million BMW Masters tournament in Shanghai, where he was five strokes adrift of day one leader Jamie Donaldson of Wales despite making a strong start to a tournament he won last year in its initial staging.

On the PGA Tour, 14-time major winner Woods was also five under after the opening round of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, three shots behind the pacesetter, his fellow American Troy Matteson.

Following the conclusion of this weekend's events, PGA Championship winner McIlroy and world No. 2 Woods will head to Zhengzhou, where they will play each other in a match play format for the first time.

Read: Scott - "McIlroy can dominate Woods"

McIlroy and Woods have been on opposing teams before, most recently when Europe retained the Ryder Cup in Illinois last month, but the exhibition event dubbed "The Duel" will be the first time they have faced off individually.

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"I really started hitting the ball quite well at the end of the front nine. I happened to miss two short putts," the 36-year-old Woods told the PGA Tour's official website after completing his round in Kuala Lumpur.

"Realistically it could have been seven or eight (under). But even at the turn, and still post five (under), it was a nice little comeback."

McIlroy sat in the upper echelons of a leaderboard dominated by his fellow European Ryder Cup heroes, tied for fourth with former team captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

Sweden's Peter Hanson and Italian Francesco Molinari were tied for second on six under after shooting opening rounds of 66, while former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer -- the German who sank the putt which ensured Europe retained the trophy at Medinah -- was in a six-way tie for seventh position on 68 alongside Justin Rose.

Rose is currently second behind McIlroy in the European Tour's "Race to Dubai" money list with five events remaining this year, and the Englishman can take the lead if he wins the $1.16 million first prize on Sunday -- as can South African Branden Grace.

Grace, who has won four titles this year, was tied for 22nd on 70 in a group including Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald plus veteran two-time major winner John Daly.

Donaldson set a new course record of 62 as he began his bid for a second European Tour title -- the first, in Ireland in July, came at the 255th attempt.

"It's an awesome field, so I need to keep playing like that to stay ahead of them," he said.

Elsewhere, Ireland's Padraig Harrington clinched the four-man Grand Slam of Golf event at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda.

The event, usually contested between the year's four major winners, saw Harrington finish nine under through two rounds, one stroke clear of U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

Harrington, winner of three major titles in 2007-08, was drafted in as a replacement for British Open champion Ernie Els, who withdrew with an ankle injury.

Masters winner Bubba Watson finished on three under, level with fellow American Keegan Bradley -- playing in place of PGA Championship titleholder McIlroy.