The wacky world of Match Play returns

By Doug FergusonFebruary 19, 2014, 3:26 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Rory McIlroy makes his American debut this week in the Match Play Championship. The only goal is to make sure it's not a short week.

McIlroy appears to be close to regaining the form that made him No. 1 in the world. He began his season on the European Tour with two good chances to win at Abu Dhabi and Dubai. So his expectations would seem to be high.

Just not here.

''What is a good week?'' said McIlroy, the No. 4 seed in a 64-man field at Dove Mountain. ''You could shoot 67 tomorrow and be going home. It's hard to know. It's hard to even put a sort of number on it. 'OK, if I get to the quarterfinals, it's a good week.' You just have to take it one match at a time.

The Accenture Match Play Championship, which starts Wednesday in the high desert north of Tucson, is the most unpredictable event in golf and probably the reason it's played so infrequently. It can be maddening for the top 64 players available from the world ranking in 18-hole matches.

Tiger Woods is the only No. 1 seed to win, and he's not at Dove Mountain this year.

Woods, Masters champion Adam Scott and British Open champion Phil Mickelson are skipping this World Golf Championship, leaving Henrik Stenson as the No. 1 seed. He opens with Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, and there's no telling what will happen.

A year ago, Luke Donald was the only player among the top four seeds who survived the first round. Donald lost in the second round.

That's one reason Scott chose not to play.

''My record speaks for itself in Arizona,'' Scott said at the start of the year. He only made it to the second round twice since it moved to Dove Mountain in 2007.

Mickelson's two youngest children have spring break this week (Mickelson has skipped three of the previous four years, anyway), while Woods was planning on being at Sochi for the Olympics until girlfriend Lindsey Vonn re-injured her knee. He decided to take this week off, anyway.

Not that the absence of those top players will give anyone else an advantage.

Asked about his chance, McIlroy only knew that he played Boo Weekley in the opening round. And that he and Weekley don't have a lot in common.

''I've never been hunting before in my life,'' McIlroy said.

Matt Kuchar is the defending champion, and he's still trying to get a copy of the draw just to marvel at how he did it. Kuchar already has the bracket from when he won the 1997 U.S. Amateur.

Kuchar was the No. 21 seed last year. So was Hunter Mahan when he won the year before. Woods is the only player from among the top eight seeds to have won the Match Play Championship over the past 10 years.

Among the most compelling matches in the first round are Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler, with similar games and style. At least they won't have to bring ski jackets - the opening round last year was suspended by snow, and the weather is expected to be warm and sunny.

And then there's Graeme McDowell and Gary Woodland, who are no strangers. They live at Lake Nona in Florida. They even flew out on the same plane together.

''We'll have one Lake Nona player through to the second round - we know that much,'' said Stenson, who also was on the plane. ''You're probably going to bump into one of your good friends at some stage when you're playing a tournament like this, if you're doing well. So it doesn't really matter. It's all to how you play. It's good fun no matter what. You just go out there and try to do your best. If it's your week, it's your week.''

Stenson remembers winning in 2007 when he figured he was headed home on Wednesday. Zach Johnson had a birdie attempt to go 2 up with three holes to play, with Stenson in trouble. The Swede saved par, Johnson missed, Stenson birdied the next two holes and he was on his way.

''If I wouldn't have made that up-and-down and he would have made his putt on 15, I wouldn't have won that year,'' Stenson said. ''That's how small the margins are here.''

The bracket is peculiar in one respect. Half of the matches Wednesday feature players from the United States against Europe - in a Ryder Cup year, no less. Among them are Dustin Johnson vs. Peter Hanson and Jordan Spieth vs. Pablo Larrazabal, who won this year at Abu Dhabi.

Does this week identify the best player?

''There's no 'yes' and there's no 'no' to that question, really. It's a stupid question. Take it away,'' Stenson said with a smile.

But there's a big paycheck for the winner - $1.53 million to the winner, and even $48,000 just for showing up.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.


Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right. Click here if you are trying to view Tiger Tracker on the Golf Channel mobile app.)