Upsets Aplenty at Match Play But Is That Upsetting


Congrats are in order to Kevin Sutherland. He was as shocked as we were that he defeated the greatest players in the world to win the Accenture Match Play title. He did it with a driver that wasnt working, but a short game that certainly was. He played six guys, one by one, that were ranked ahead of him, and one by one they all fell.
The point here isnt to make light of his victory. He might still have won if the conditions were different, such was the state of his game and his putter.
No siree! The point is, how do so many of the worlds best players fall to the lesser ones? You can understand two or three, but when 11 of the worlds top 13 go to the showers the first two rounds, some kind of negative mojo must be at work. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval ' the top three ' were only in town long enough for a quick cup of coffee and a Danish. They all lost in the first round.
Woods has been searching for something lost for quite awhile now. The worlds best player ' over-all, at least ' has been taken down a rung or two over the past eight months. Mickelson was more of a shock, but dont forget, he missed the cut at nearby Torrey Pines only two weeks before. Duval led, 2-up, with two holes remaining in the first round against eventual champion Sutherland, but managed to salvage a defeat from the jaws of victory.
Has this whole world gone topsy-turvey? Should we just throw out the world rankings and replace it with a simple worlds top 100, worlds second 100, worlds third 100, etc?
In a word ' no. And on the issue of why the carnage the last week, you need look no further than La Costa.
La Costa is a beautiful golf course in an area of stunning Pacific Ocean vistas, and the setting is perfect for a tournament of this size and magnitude. But, it is resort, with a resorts clientele and a resorts degree of difficulty.
That evens out the field considerably. And in a tournament where the 64th seed is still an awfully good player, that is all that needs to be done to have upsets all over the place. The course isnt difficult enough to sort out the exceptional from the very good. Everyone can find the fairway with a driver, and even if they cant, everyone can hit the green with their approach shot. The tournament then becomes a putting contest.

Of course, there are probably less than 10 courses in the U.S. capable of separating the great from the merely good. And none is in Southern California. None is in Florida, where the PGA Tour also is considering having the Match Play. In short, weather limits the geographical considerations ' the tournament must be played in February and there are only so many courses which can hold a tournament at that time.
So you can get some prodigious upsets ' No. 64 seed Peter OMalley, coming all the way from Australia a couple of nights before, beats Tiger Woods, who went home the week before to practice for this one. The No. 63 seed, John Cook, defeats No. 2 Mickelson rather easily, 3 and 2.
But why not just throw them all into the pot and see who comes out the victor? After all, they are the top 64 (minus an injured player or two) in the world out of 30 or 40 million golfers. The winner does deserve it ' he just played six different world-class players, and he beat them all in five days. The years to come will see many more upsets, but is that such a bad thing?
Jeff Maggert, the 24th seed, won the first one in 1999. Darren Clarke, the 19th seed, came from Northern Ireland to upset Tiger Woods in the second. The Match Play moved to Australia for the third one last year and more than 40 didnt attend. But the winner was Steve Stricker, ranked 91st in the world at the time. And this year it was Sutherland, ranked No. 65 in the world. The best in the world have taken a hammering at match play.
There were undoubtedly lots of folk who would rather have seen Woods vs. Mickelson in the championship match instead of Sutherland vs. No. 45 Scott McCarron. But Sutherland vs. McCarron was the offer, and it was a good storyline, not the least of which were two guys, both raised in the Sacramento area, both within one year of each other who were rivals in high school.
If you want Woods vs. Mickelson, better wait until July when they have a pick of ALL of the golf courses. Otherwise, better get ready for lots of upsets, because there is going to be no favorites when they all get together on a resort golf course. The top 64 are invited, and any of the 64 has a real chance of winning.