Good fortune can trump good form at Match Play

By Doug FergusonFebruary 19, 2013, 12:13 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Bring together the top 64 players in the world and no one knows what to expect.

Especially at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Hunter Mahan, the defending champion, was asked Monday to list the top three players who have the best reputation in this format. He made logical choices in Luke DonaldTiger Woods and Ian Poulter.

Donald, who won this event in 2011, has a magnificent short game and can produce the kind of shots that change momentum in a match. Poulter, the star of just about every Ryder Cup he plays, has such a strong self-belief that he can will his way to wins, as he did at Dove Mountain in 2010. And Tiger, well, is Tiger.

''Just a great player and he doesn't like to lose,'' Mahan said.


Bracket Challenge: Make picks for WGC-Match Play

WGC-Match Play: Printable bracket

WGC-Match Play: Articles, videos and photos


Before anyone pencils in a bracket that puts those three players in the semifinals, consider recent history.

Donald was No. 1 in the world and lost in the first round a year ago. Poulter hasn't made it beyond the opening round since he won the Match Play Championship.

Woods, the only back-to-back winner of this World Golf Championship, hasn't made it out of the second round since his last win in 2008.

The brackets are set up like they are in other sporting events, whether it's a Grand Slam event in tennis or the NCAA basketball tournament. The difference in golf is that over 18 holes, there's not much to separate No. 1 from No. 64.

It all starts to unfold Wednesday on The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, a Jack Nicklaus design that features massive slopes on the greens and might not be much fun to play if not for the format of match play.

Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 seed and takes on Shane Lowry in the first of two matches between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Graeme McDowell faces Padraig Harrington in the opening round. Woods opens against Charles Howell III, while Poulter faces Stephen Gallacher of Scotland.

Most of the players arrived Monday for practice or to see the golf course.

All of them would like to stick around as long as possible.

''If you get to the weekend, it's one of the most fun weeks of the year,'' Geoff Ogilvy said last week. ''If you lose the first round, it feels like the worst week of the year.''

Ogilvy failed to qualify for the first time since he won in 2006 when it was held at La Costa, though he isn't the only one missing. Retief Goosen ended his streak of playing in the Match Play for 13 consecutive years by not being high enough in the world ranking.

The top 66 qualified because Phil Mickelson (family) and Brandt Snedeker (sore ribs) are not playing.

David Toms knows both sides of this feeling. It was fun when he reached the championship match against Woods in 2003, and it was a blast two years later when he smoked Chris DiMarco in the finals to win. And then there was the time he lost to Sergio Garcia in the opening round three years ago.

''I lose my first match and then I got picked for drug testing,'' Toms said. ''I said, 'Don't you think you should test the guy who just won?' But it's a great week if you have a chance at the end.''

The tough part, of course, is getting started.

It's not a good feeling to lose early, particularly for some of the international players who have crossed oceans to get here. Such was the plight of Thomas Bjorn one year. He played 14 holes and was on his way back to Europe.

Mahan was asked the feeling of losing the opening match, climbing into the van for a slow, long ride back to the clubhouse.

''You just don't want to be there anymore, unless you win,'' he said. ''Then, you don't have a problem signing anything that anyone wants you to sign. But it's a weird feeling. The van can't move fast enough. People can't get out of the way fast enough. Everything bothers you. And if someone asks you, 'How was your day?' you want to punch them.''

There have been some quick tempers over the years.

Woods, the one year he lost in the opening round as the No. 1 seed, walked down the 18th fairway alone at La Costa with a few thousand people in tow, not saying a word. Ernie Els is known as ''Heisman'' after losing in the opening round.

That's the gesture he once made when he saw a reporter approaching.

A European Tour official approached Pat Perez for a comment after he lost one year. Perez offered three words. Two of them couldn't be printed.

Mahan said of Perez: ''He probably does all the things I think about.''

Good form doesn't always count for much, either.

The past two winners on the PGA Tour in the week before Match Play both lost in the opening round – Bill Haas to Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson to Camilo Villegas.

As for match play reputations, Justin Rose might be worth part of the conversation. He won an exhibition in Turkey last year that was medal match play – head-to-head with the lowest 18-hole score winning – and then did pretty well in that other exhibition, the Ryder Cup.

It was his 35-foot putt against Mickelson on the 17th hole at Medinah that was the most critical toward Europe's stunning rally on the final day.

''I definitely would like to ride that wave of momentum and confidence,'' Rose said. ''There (were) a couple of matches in Turkey that I pulled off a shot when I had to. Obviously, the Ryder Cup I pulled off a shot when I had to. It's always a bit of fortune to hit the right shot at the right time.''

That's what the Match Play Championship ultimately is all about – good fortune, and good golf helps create that fortune.

Mahan, who defeated McIlroy in the championship match last year, was asked what he learned about being successful in match play.

''You have to play good,'' he said. ''That's the only thing that matters.''

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:



Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.



Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''