Tiger's love-hate relationship with match play

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2012, 10:33 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – It’s a love-hate deal, like first dates or your team landing the first pick in next year’s draft. If things were going that well you wouldn’t be in either situation, but all things considered life could be worse.

That Tiger Woods is in this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship field is “glass half full” territory. Fourteen weeks ago Woods had slipped to 58th in the world golf ranking and was on the precipice of not qualifying for the first time in a World Golf Championship event.

Since then he’s posted three top-5 global finishes and climbed to 20th, safely inside the top 64 and suddenly exposed to the nuanced indifference of match play.

It’s a relationship that stretches back more than a decade and has been equal parts productive and painful for Woods. In 11 Match Play starts Woods has three victories, two one-and-done Wednesdays – including last year’s Round 1 loss to Thomas Bjorn (19 holes) – and everything in between.

But if Woods is haunted by the capriciousness of match play he didn’t sound scorned on Tuesday.

“It brings us back to how I think all of us grew up playing,” Woods said. “It’s not often you get a guy head-to-head in the same group, sometimes it’s in different groups, two groups ahead or you’re a group behind. Here it’s eyeball-to-eyeball . . . one-on-one.”

If Woods sounds partial to the mano-a-mano nature of match play he’s come by it honestly.

A few years ago your correspondent asked him what he considered his greatest accomplishment in golf. The answer, surprisingly to some, was his three U.S. Junior titles.

The window to win three Juniors, which is particularly confining given the age requirements, and the oddity of the match play format were the reasons why he held the under-aged trifecta in such high regard.

Similarly, his three Accenture keepsakes hold a special place in his trophy case, somewhere just below those 14 major championships but ahead of, say, the 2006 Buick Open.

The dichotomy of the accomplishment is what gives it its significance. This week’s champion will have beaten just six players . . . six. That’s more collateral damage than your average Saturday morning members game, yet he will do so via a format that is every bit as challenging as a 144-man field.

“In theory I (can shoot) 65 and you’re going home, that’s just the way it is,” Woods said. “You have to go low. But there are some matches, I remember (Colin Montgomerie) and (Ian Poulter) at La Costa, the winner shot 79. You don’t know who you’re going to get or how they’re playing.”

In this respect, the season’s first WGC may be an even tougher climb following a slight format change last year. Prior to 2011 the Match Play’s championship frame was a scheduled 36-hole bout, but officials switched to 18 holes last year.

For Woods, 36-hole finals have been the tonic to mitigate match play’s unpredictability. The more holes you play, the theory goes, the better chance talent, and not the rub of the green, will prevail.

“It’s a sprint,” Woods said of 18-hole matches. “Generally, if you get down early you rarely come back. It’s hard to make up ground when you’re only playing 18 holes. Thirty-six holes you can make a comeback.”

It’s a theory that at least partially explains Woods’ 3-1 record in 36-hole finals. The only time he’s failed to win a 36-hole WGC finale was in 2000 to Darren Clarke.

So on top of a new swing and uncooperative putter Woods no longer has the perceived advantage that came with a 36-hole final, to say nothing of an increasingly deep talent pool that has made a No. 1 seed little more than a ceremonial position in recent years.

“It doesn’t really matter if you’re a (No.) 16 or 5 (seed),” said Woods, a fifth-seed this week who will face Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano on Wednesday. “Any guy can win any match. The world ranking is done over a two-year revolving period. Here, it’s not just one day, but one round.”

The best Wednesday in golf will beget the shortest work week for half the field at Dove Mountain, a stark and satisfying reality.

“Anybody can beat anybody at this level,” Woods reasoned. “That’s what makes it so interesting for us as players.”

That’s what makes the Match Play the Tour’s ultimate love-hate stop.

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

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.