Tiger Could be in for Another Short Week

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Tiger Woods had a short stay at Riviera, withdrawing after two rounds with the flu.
This week might be even shorter.
No other tournament is more unpredictable than the Match Play Championship, which starts Wednesday with 64 players and will be whittled in half after one day with no regard to ranking. Woods knows both sides of the equation, having won this World Golf Championship twice, and having been eliminated in the first round in 2002 by Peter O'Malley.
'It's the final round on the first day, because anything can happen at any time,' Woods said Tuesday. 'You never know what you're going to get. You have to play your best and beat the guy you're playing against.'
Step one is getting past Stephen Ames, who got into the field as the No. 64 seed when Thomas Bjorn withdrew. Woods is the No. 1 seed, followed by Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.
It will be the last time the Accenture Match Play Championship is held at La Costa Resort, known lately as 'Lake La Costa' because the fairways are better suited for kayak races with only a little rain. The tournament is expected to move next year to The Gallery in Tucson, Ariz.
Woods was asked what he will miss about La Costa, and it was a struggle to find an answer.
OK, there was that 7-iron to a few inches on the par-3 16th hole to beat Tom Lehman in a playoff when the Mercedes Championships was held here in 1997. And the two victories in the Match Play Championship, over David Toms and Davis Love III, were sweet.
'I've played well here,' Woods said. 'But this golf course didn't really handle the weather too well, and this time of year, you get rain. We've been lucky to finish this tournament on time.'
At least Woods has a few fond memories.
That hasn't been the case for Els, who dislikes La Costa so much that he didn't show up the past two years.
When last seen here, the Big Easy had a 1-up lead on the final hole before Phil Tataurangi knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt, then hit his tee shot on the second extra hole to 2 feet for a victory. Els was eliminated in 2002 in the second round by missing a 4-foot par putt that would have extended his match against Bob Estes.
Els could only grin when he arrived Monday night at La Costa.
'You check into the hotel and see you're booked for seven nights,' he said. 'But you know you might be leaving in a day or two. It's exciting for the fans. But you're on edge. And you're on edge the whole round.'
Els opens with former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, and it's safe to say he has no expectations. Els has never advanced beyond the second round at La Costa, and he figures he has seen the worst.
'If you look past the first round, you're in trouble,' he said. 'Don't even look at your bracket, because crazy things happen in match play. You've got to prepare yourself for a tight match no matter what happens.'
Crazy would be the time Jeff Maggert trailed for 33 holes in the championship match until chipping in for birdie to win in 38 holes. Crazy would be the time Kevin Sutherland was 2 down with two holes to play in the opening round against David Duval, won in 20 holes, then went on to win the tournament.
Ian Poulter knows what crazy looks like.
He was playing great golf in the semifinals last year and was all square with Toms when they got to the ninth hole. Toms hit a 5-wood to 4 feet for birdie, holed out a 9-iron from 123 yards for eagle on No. 10, then hit a 5-wood that stopped 2 feet away on the par-5 11th.
'When you do that, you're going to win the golf tournament, and that's exactly what he did,' Poulter said.
He was asked what he said to Toms.
'Nice shot,' Poulter replied dryly. 'I'm not happy, am I? I'm not going to stand and have a five-minute chew with him. I'm going to pack my bags and go home.'
He unpacked at La Costa, looked at the draw and saw that he gets to play Toms again -- this time in the first round. The other choice, before Bjorn withdrew, was 2005 runner-up Chris DiMarco.
'You've got to beat the best to win this golf tournament,' Poulter said. 'So what difference does it make if it's the first round, second, third, fourth or semis or finals?'
For some of the newcomers, such as Sean O'Hair and Bart Bryant, it has been years since they played match play. Bryant remembers playing match play on one of the small tours where he once toiled in Florida, and isn't sure it matters. He'll try to hit fairways and greens, make a few putts and see whether that takes him to the airport on Wednesday or the winner's circle on Sunday.
First up for Bryant is John Daly.
'JD has the ability to dwarf any golf course,' Bryant said. 'He can be real streaky. You really never know what you're going to get. I've got to play my game, and let him decide who wins the match.'
It is hard to consider anyone a favorite considering the fickle nature of 18-hole matches, where someone can be off his game and run into someone who is flat-out terrible that day. Even so, Woods and Toms have records that are difficult to ignore. Woods is 21-4 at La Costa, and 33-9-2 as a pro. Toms, who lost in the finals to Woods in 2003, is 18-5 in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
But there is only one certainty this week.
'Any time you get beat in the first round,' Woods said, 'it's not a positive feeling.'
Related Links:
  • Round One Match Ups
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
  • Match Play Brackets
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.