Different Format Equals Different Approach

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Tiger Woods is capable of creating a golfing masterpiece with his clubs. And in doing so he can use a simple paint-by-numbers philosophy.
 
Round 1: Play steadily; keep yourself in contention.
Round 2: Press the accelerator; move nearer the lead.
Round 3: Floor it; move past everyone.
Round 4: Set it on cruise control; coast to victory.
 
An amplitude of consistency combined with a bit of brilliance is often a successful formula to thrive week-in and week-out on the PGA Tour.
 
But it can be a recipe for extinction in match-play competition.
 
For this week, and this week only, tour players will go head-to-head, one-on-one, me vs. you, in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Its the only official match play event on the annual PGA Tour schedule.
 
The most commonly ' and overused ' comparison of this format to its stroke-play counterpart is a different type of animal (just count the number of times Curtis Strange says it on an ABC telecast).
 
Match play has the ability to pack more pressure and excitement into a days play than does stroke play ' Day 1 of the Accenture Match Play will be far more exciting than the opening 18 holes at last weeks Nissan Open.
 
But its also more unpredictable than the a bounce on Pebble Beach greens.
 
When youve got 18 holes, anything can happen, said Woods.
 
And usually does in this event.
 
Woods was an upset victim in 2002, when as the No. 1 seed he lost to No. 64 Peter OMalley.
 
That year, the top 3 seeds were ousted in the first round, as Phil Mickelson and David Duval both fell on Day 1 at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., which will again play host this year.
 
Upsets are more than commonplace in this event ' they are almost expected. Thats because there is very little separation of skill between the top 64 or so players in the world ' at least over 18 holes.
 
Over 18 holes, you know, say I was playing Tiger, if I make a couple of good putts and get momentum going my way, and make a few birdies, anything is possible, said Kevin Sutherland, who won the six-round tournament in 2002.
 
Not to say that you can beat Tiger Woods in four rounds, but its easier to do that in an 18-hole match.
 
At this level it doesn't take much to lose a match, said Woods. You go out there and lose a couple of holes in a row and get behind. These guys are that much better. They don't make mistakes. And that's one of the things you realize when you play at this elite level, is that the guys don't make a whole lot of mistakes.
 
And when they do, pressure can sometimes be the culprit.
 
When you go into an 18-hole match, especially if you're the lower seed, you feel you have nothing to lose. You're going for your shots, you're not worried about the consequences, and thats why it turns up upsets, said Padraig Harrington, who lost in the second round a year ago as the No. 8 seed.
 
If you're drawing against a lower seed, it's automatically on the paper that he's the underdog and you're the favored. Everybody likes being the underdog. Its much harder being the favorite.
 
Last year, Tiger Woods defeated David Toms in the 36-hole final. Woods was seeded first, of course, and Toms sixth.
 
Thats as close ' by far ' to a marquee match-up that the event has ever displayed on Sunday.
 
The inaugural event, in 1999, saw No. 24 Jeff Maggert defeat No. 50 Andrew Magee. No. 19 Darren Clarke knocked off No. 1 Woods in 2000. When 40 players opted not to make the trip to Melbourne, Australia in January 2001, No. 55 Steve Stricker eventually defeated No. 21 Pierre Fulke. And in the upset-filled event of 2002, No. 62 Sutherland edged No. 45 Scott McCarron for the title.
 
Obviously, those are not the dynamic final matches that television executives and tour officials would desire.
 
Match play and television dont always jive. And its not every players favorite format. Thirty-two players will make the trip to Southern California for only one day of competition.
 
I enjoy it because you only get to play it maybe once a year, said Robert Allenby.
 
And that time is now.
 
Its time for players ' whether or not they enjoy the change in format ' to alter their approach, refocus their philosophy, and do what they can to avoid extinction and play the next day.
 
Whatever it takes to advance, said Woods of his match-play approach. Whether you shoot 10 over par and advance or 10 under par and advance ' it doesnt matter. Whatever it takes to advance ' thats the name of the game.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship