Match Play fickle fun and frustrating

By Doug FergusonFebruary 22, 2011, 2:14 am
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayMARANA, Ariz. – Padraig Harrington might feel a lot better about his chances in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship if he were still playing junior golf in Ireland.

He thinks he’d probably make more birdies, anyway.

“I used to love match play as a kid. It was my favorite,” Harrington said. “When I was an amateur, I was shooting scores I couldn’t shoot today. I was shooting well under par. Now, professional golf has taken that out of me. We play so much stroke play that you’re cautious. You don’t want to make mistakes. Professional golf knocks the edge off you.”

Harrington and 63 other players will be looking for that edge when the first World Golf Championship gets under way Wednesday in the high desert of Dove Mountain.

No other tournament on the PGA Tour schedule is like this one.

There is more drama, excitement and heartache found in the opening round than the final round because of simple match: There are 32 matches, meaning 32 players will be happy and 32 players not so much.

WGC-Match Play TV Schedule
(All times Eastern)

Golf Channel_new
Wed: Noon-6 p.m.

Thurs: 2-6 p.m.
Fri: 2-6 p.m.
Sat: Noon-2 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

NBC Sports
Sat: 2-6 p.m.

Sun: 2-6 p.m.

“It’s horrific, at least the first 10 minutes,” said Geoff Ogilvy when asked to describe how it feels to lose in any round. And this is a guy who has won the Match Play Championship twice and was a finalist another time.

“If the you finish top 10 in a tournament, you can find something good about it,” said Ogilvy, who plays Harrington in the opening round. “You can’t find anything good about losing at match play.”

Adding to the buzz going into the week is that for the first this year, all the best players in the world are at one tournament.

Lee Westwood, the No. 1 player in the world for the last four months, is the fifth player to be the top seed since this tournament began in 1999. The others were Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker.

Westwood opens against Henrik Stenson, who got into the 64-man field when Toru Taniguchi of Japan withdrew with a neck injury. It would be considered a tough draw, except that no opponent is a pushover. Westwood should know that by now, for the Englishman has never advanced beyond the second round.

Robert Karlsson, who would seem to be tough in match play, had never won a match until last year. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort. Three years ago he drew Paul Casey in the opening round and shot 65, only to lose. Casey shot 64,

So when he was asked if he looked forward to the week, Karlsson paused.

“Yes and no,” the Swede said with a smile. “It’s a bit funny. It’s good fun, and we don’t play it very often. I do enjoy the Ryder Cup match play a little more. This one here, the week can become so short. One year I was there for less than three hours.”

That was in 2007 when he played all of 11 holes before Stephen Ames beat him.

The matches are 18 holes of anything goes, and that now includes the championship match. Instead of a 36-hole final on Sunday, the format has been changed to 18-hole semifinals Sunday morning, immediately followed by an 18-hole final match.

PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany is the No. 2 seed and will play big-hitting Seung-yul Noh of South Korea. Woods, the No. 3 seed, faces longtime friend Thomas Bjorn, while fourth-seeded Phil Mickelson gets Brendan Jones.

So what’s the secret?

“I don’t think there are any secrets,” said Casey, twice a runner-up in this tournament, including last year to Ian Poulter. “It’s the guys making long putts. That’s really difficult to face. And that could be anybody.”

Stricker thinks the big hitters have an advantage on desert courses. He remembers facing Angel Cabrera on a different Dove Mountain course and watching him putt for eagle six times. “That’s hard to compete against it,” Stricker said.

Click for the full bracket for the
2011 WGC-Acccenture Match Play Championship.
There have been players who didn’t bring enough clothes for the week, not believing they would last as long as they did. And there have been players – a lot of them – going home with a suitcase full of clothes that haven’t been worn.

So what’s the best attitude to bring into such a fickle week?

“However I went in during 2006 and 2009,” Ogilvy said, referring to the two years he won. “It’s a weird tournament. In ’09, I played horrific the first three days – OK, horrific might be an exaggeration – but I didn’t play great. I went to 19 holes with (Kevin) Sutherland. Shingo (Katayama) let me off the hook at 18. And all of a sudden on the weekend, I found something.”

He said he played his best golf of the year in the final, even though he though he shouldn’t have advanced out of the first round.

Stewart Cink was the only American to reach the quarterfinals last year, and he was a finalist in 2008 when Woods won for the third time, a 6-and-5 victory that was the biggest margin for a championship match.

Cink loves the format, citing the “do-or-die” situations in brings.

“The finality of every shots brings out a new level of focus,” Cink said. “I’ve studied every possible direction you can study trying to figure out how to get that focus into my stroke-play game. But there’s something about match play. That’s why we see such a high level of golf at the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup and at Accenture. I just love the format.”

But he doesn’t like losing. No one does.

“When you lose,” Retief Goosen said with a grin, “you want to hit the other guy.”
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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.