The cut comes early in the Arizona desert, particularly for the likes of Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter. But the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship can still provide some drama for those inclined to brave an inclement forecast to see a bomber’s bout between J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson.
J.B. Holmes. Five consecutive weeks on the road, two cross-country flights in two days and a golf course as foreign as a three-shot par 5 couldn’t derail Holmes, nor could three of the week’s toughest opponents (Camilo Villegas, Ernie Els and Jason Day).
The man from Campbellsville, Ky., has run through the Match Play field and set the stage for what may well be the week’s most entertaining match with Bubba Watson early Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Now, if only they’d move a major to Arizona, Holmes would start looking like a first-vote Hall-of-Famer.
West Coast. If the Wild West Coast Swing is any indicator, we should expect first-time winners at all the majors, no Monday finishes and a tough summer for the top of the game’s star marquee.
Among the highlights of the West Coast Swing was Jhonattan Vegas’ magical two weeks starting at the Bob Hope Classic, Bubba Watson’s breakthrough – and breakdown – at Torrey Pines against Phil Mickelson and Mark Wilson’s quiet march to star status.
Of course, the Tour may be sending out APB’s for its stars following the Left Coast run – Tiger Woods failed to contend at Torrey Pines or Tucson; Mickelson wasn’t a factor after San Diego and the Elite Eight at the Match Play include just two players who have won majors.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Match Play on the move. Lots of talk this week about the WGC-Match Play heading to greener, or at least warmer, pastures. Most insiders say the tournament will move, the only question is where?
“Cut Line” would like to suggest Riviera Country Club. The Northern Trust Open is already run by the Tour’s Championship Management division, which also runs the WGCs, the golf course is a match play match and the Riv’s location is the perfect tonic for Dove Mountain’s end-of-the-road seclusion.
Harbor Town in Hilton Head, S.C., would also be a win-win for the Tour. The Lowcountry stop seems stymied in its search for a sponsor and the quirky-cozy layout could be set up for speed and scoring. And if all that isn’t enough, the shrimp and grits are to die for.
Match play. The format, not the tournament. It is the professional game’s ultimate love-hate relationship. We revel in close duels like Martin Kaymer and Hunter Mahan’s shootout on Friday but recoil when the top seeds tumble like they did this week.
In order, Woods, Mickelson and Lee Westwood all made early exits, leaving surprisingly quiet galleries strangely wanting for the safety of 72 holes of stroke play.
Tweet of the Week: “Bubba did good today! It’s been a great week so far. Fun match tomorrow with (J.B. Holmes).”
“Cut Line” would agree, but then nobody asked “Cut Line.”
Tiger Woods. No, it’s not that 19-hole first-round flameout that landed Woods on the wrong side of the weekend axe, it is an apparent detachment from competitive reality.
On the one hand, the world No. 3 says his new swing is coming along but he needs “reps,” and yet even after a short week in the Arizona desert he wasn’t interested in adding to his schedule heading into the Masters.
At this rate he will motor down Magnolia Lane with 13 competitive rounds under his belt this year at best. Not exactly ideal when change is afoot.
“Tiger is lacking two things: competitive rounds and confidence,” said one Tour fraternity brother. “Until he realizes that the more he puts his swing under the gun and tests its nuances and dependability in tournaments and not at the ‘bubble’ known as Isleworth, he’s never going to be able to trust it enough to know it’s going to hold up when it really matters.”
Tweet of the Week II. @HankDHaney: “For all the talk of Tiger’s poor driving the last six years I have never seen him drive it out of play with a match or tournament on the line.”
Woods’ record with Haney (a 51 percent winning clip on the PGA Tour the last 3 ½ years) should end all debates, not snarky comments.
World Golf Championships. On Tuesday, world No. 1 Lee Westwood scaled a familiar soap box, chiding the powers that be for being insular or without a third-grader’s grasp of global geography.
To date, 37 WGC's have been played, just six of those outside the Lower 48, and that’s not counting the WGC-HSBC Champions which doesn’t award official money.
The idea was to grow the game globally, or maybe just quiet Greg Norman. Instead the only thing the WGC’s have grown is the Tour’s bottom line.
Ian Poulter. First the Englishman was petulant in his Round 1 match against Stewart Cink, chiding a ShotLink crew for making noise and barking obscenities at the sixth green when he failed to hole his bogey putt (at least he didn’t spit on the putting surface).
Then he complained that his tee time, first off on Wednesday, was not befitting the event’s defending champion before storming out of Tucson. Never mind that he was the 12th-seeded player when the field was set on Feb. 14. Never mind that even as defending champion there is no guarantee he would make it back this year if he didn’t stay inside the top 64 in the world.
We’ve seen this act before but thought it had been cleaned up when Sergio Garcia took a sabbatical last year.