New Match Play format, but familiar results

By Rex HoggardApril 30, 2015, 2:26 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The new-look WGC-Cadillac Match Play clung to an old modus operandi on Wednesday.

For all the tinkering – new format, new venue, new sponsor – the basic blueprint was unchanged on Day 1, which is to say the status quo remains irrelevant at the PGA Tour’s only individual match-play outing.

Put another way, betting chalk at the Match Play can be costly.

Consider that seven of the day’s first nine matches went to the lower-ranked player and that when the final putt dropped past 10 p.m. on the East Coast things had only gotten slightly better for the favored, with 13 of 32 matches going to the lower seed on Day 1.

It’s always been the axiom at the Match Play, which defies the pathological desire in sports to clearly define favorite and underdog. This, however, is no NCAA tournament, where Cinderella stories are the stock in trade.

In golf, parity isn’t measured by ranking points, not when it comes to the big league’s only head-to-head tilt.


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The best example of this came when Henrik Stenson became the highest-ranked player (No. 3) to drop his Day 1 match, a 19-hole bout that went to John Senden; while No. 67 Ben Martin, the lowest-ranked player in the field, edged Matt Kuchar, 1 up, thanks to a timely hole-in-one at the 17th hole.

“When you’re playing the best 64 players in the world it’s not like you’ll have an easy match,” Martin said.

Even Jason Day, No. 7 in the world and this week’s defending champion, wasn’t immune to match play’s capricious ways, dropping his opening game to No. 50 Charley Hoffman, 4 and 3.

“There were a ton of upsets already from what I’ve seen,” Day said. “Again, no one’s a favorite here in formats like this. You really have to go out and win that match and try and get through to the next round. There’s obviously favorites, but you have to be cautious about it.”

What was supposed to be different this year was the urgency that comes with the old one-and-done format previously used at the World Golf Championship.

Officials changed the format this year to allow for three days of round-robin play, similar to the World Cup, which would assure at least three days of play for all 64.

But as players began doing the math and figuring the various permutations, the liberation of round-robin play began to clear like the marine layer that blanketed Harding Park earlier this week.

Etched into the faces of many of those who ended up on the wrong side of the win/loss column on Wednesday was a much different reality. Although they weren’t packing for a flight out of town, as has been the case for the last 16 years, first-round losers now face two days of diminishing returns.

Consider Justin Rose’s plight. The Englishman dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Marc Leishman on Wednesday and will likely need to win his next two group matches – on Thursday he plays Anirban Lahiri, who won, and Ryan Palmer, who lost to Lahiri, on Day 3 – and will need some help from Leishman if he’s going to make it to Saturday’s Sweet 16.

“You're definitely swimming upstream if you lose that first match,” said Rory McIlroy, who easily defeated Jason Dufner, 5 and 4. “You lose that first one, and it is tough because all of a sudden you're not in control of your own destiny. You're looking at the other guys in your pool and seeing what they're doing, and you're not fully focused on yourself.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Friday’s round will be perfunctory. McIlroy’s victory combined with Billy Horschel’s 5-and-4 triumph over Brandt Snedeker sets the stage for a potential Day 3 showdown between the world No. 1 and the reigning FedEx Cup champion. If both players make it to Friday undefeated it would be a compelling match to decide who advances.

But then it seems just as likely that there will be more than a few players who will have already booked a tee time on Saturday at Harding Park before Day 3 play begins.

Martin, for instance, on Thursday will play Hunter Mahan, who easily beat Stephen Gallacher (7 and 6). If Martin, who would be the NCAA equivalent of Weber State in this tournament, beats Mahan he’s assured a spot in the Sweet 16, making Friday’s match a glorified practice round.

But as this tournament proves on an annual basis there are no upsets in professional golf at this level, regardless of the name on the standard or his status in the world ranking.

The new lesson on Wednesday that players and fans were quickly learning was that round-robin play is not the forgiving mulligan many may have thought.

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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 3:10 pm

Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.

First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.

Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:

The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.

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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

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Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 2:00 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.

In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.

Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.

Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.

''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''

Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.