A Tee Time with Tiger

By Rex HoggardApril 3, 2010, 3:38 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Ricky Barnes paused on his way to lunch a few weeks back at Bay Hill for an impromptu game of “Tiger Woods Trivia Pursuit.” The question: Of the 23 players who have been paired with the world No. 1 for Rounds 1 and 2 at the Masters since he turned pro in 1997 only two have posted a lower 36-score.

The answer: Future Masters champion Angel Cabrera and a 22-year-old amateur named Ricky Barnes in 2003.

“Yes,” Barnes smiled while offering a Woods-esque fist pump.

It’s a testament to Barnes’ swashbuckling game that he was able to ignore the circus outside the ropes and the intensity inside the plush confines of Augusta National to post rounds of 69-74, which clipped Woods (76-73) by a staggering six strokes.

“It was a blur,” Barnes recalled.

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In Woods’ defense, 2003 was also the four-time Masters champion’s worst first- and second-round total as a pro at Augusta National by two strokes, he was in between swing coaches and in the middle of the longest major championship drought of his career (10 Grand Slam misses between the 2002 U.S. Open and ’05 Masters).

Lost within the minutia of Barnes and Cabrera’s feat is also a harbinger of what awaits the “lucky” twosome that will get paired with Woods next week when he ends his self-imposed hiatus from Tour life on “Tea Olive,” Augusta National’s rolling par-4 opener.

Getting paired with the 14-time major champion is a challenge under the best of circumstances. The intensity of Augusta National and Woods’ long-awaited return to competition promises to only intensify that reality.

“It’s tough to get paired with him. It’s usually an honor, and as an amateur it was really something special,” said Barnes, who won the 2002 U.S. Amateur to earn his spot at the Masters. “I had everything going in my head to just get (the first tee shot) airborne and I hit this big hook onto the pine needles.”

Barnes said he settled himself with a birdie at the second hole and, he admits, his 36-hole brush with the game’s top drawing card was lessened a bit by inclement weather that delayed the start of his first round until Friday and forced the completion of Round 2 on Saturday.

Still, Barnes’ accomplishment is even more impressive particularly when compared with the collective track record of those who have pulled the most coveted – or cursed, depending on one’s point of view – Grand Slam grouping.

Since he turned pro and started rewriting history books, Woods has a 71.23 scoring average for Rounds 1 and 2 at the Masters. By comparison those paired with him have an average of 73.98.

Some of the pressure players face when paired with Woods can be attributed to the year’s first major, which carries its own unique set of anxieties, and some is part and parcel of the times. Simply put, life between the ropes with Woods is a flat screen, HiDef version of a game that otherwise works fine with a set of rabbit ears and some aluminum foil.

“I still thought of him as a kid, but now . . . he’s become a legend. Now a days, because of his status, you get a little more nervous,” said Tim Herron, who matched Woods with a 144 total in 1999 after rounds of 75-69.

After Steve Stricker, who was paired with Woods for Rounds 1 and 2 in the first three playoff events last year and all three team matches at the 2009 Presidents Cup, Stewart Cink may have the most time on the clock with Woods.

Cink has been paired with Woods for the first two rounds at Augusta National twice, last year and in 2000, when he matched him with rounds of 75-72.

“It’s just a little more of everything,” said Cink, who went 69-78 last year to Woods’ 70-72 start. “The spectators are respectful, but they all want to see history and they expect Tiger to make history every year.”

Cink is also uniquely qualified to explain the differences between going out with Woods at a normal Tour event as opposed to a tee time at the year’s first major.

“When you’re head-to-head, you can finish first or second, the pressure is off,” said Cink, who lost the 36-hole final to Woods at the 2008 WGC-Match Play Championship, 8 and 7. “At the Masters, anything can happen.”

Like most things Augusta National, a first-tee Thursday encounter is just different. It’s not as though Woods makes things difficult for those he’s paired with. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“He’s great to play with,” said Mike Weir, who played Rounds 1 and 2 (74-69) in 2001 when Woods (70-66) was on his way to his second green jacket. “It’s more of the periphery around him. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

Neither will the twosome who will be paired with Woods next week, but Barnes has some advice.

“Try not to worry about what he’s doing or what’s going on in the crowds,” Barnes said. “It’s a long day.”

Actually, it’s going to be two long days. But that probably doesn’t help.

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Watch: Reed races in 40-footer to put away Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 10:19 pm

Three up with three holes to play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Patrick Reed missed an opportunity to close out his match with Jordan Spieth when Spieth won the 16th hole with a birdie.

But Reed wouldn't let the match move to 18. Putting for birdie from the apron, 40 feet from the hole, at the par-3 17th, Reed raced in this putt to end the match.

With the win, Reed moved to 3-0-0 for the week and advanced to the weekend at Austin Country Club.

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Garcia's win-win situation: Move on or baby time

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2018, 9:45 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Given his status as one of Europe’s preeminent Ryder Cup players, Sergio Garcia’s record at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is nothing short of inexplicable.

In 15 starts at the event, the Spaniard has played the weekend just once – in 2010 when he lost in the semifinals to Ian Poulter – and since the event pivoted to round-robin play he’s never made it out of the group stages.

His fortunes have changed dramatically this year, with Garcia going undefeated in pool play and cruising to the Sweet 16 following a 3-and-1 victory over Xander Schauffele on Friday.

“I would love to have done a little better than I have,” said Garcia, who will play Kyle Stanley in the Round of 16 early Saturday. “I have had some good weeks here. But not probably as good as I should have. So hopefully this week it will be better.”

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Garcia made no secret of the source of his turnaround following the birth of his first child last Wednesday, a girl named Azalea. Even on Friday when he found himself 2 down through 11 holes and in danger of not advancing he kept an upbeat attitude.

“The way I looked at it, when I was 2 down, we're going to try to turn it around, but if we don't, it means that I get to spend more time with [his wife] Angela and Azalea for the weekend,” Garcia said. “I tried to look at it in a good way.”

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DeLaet: WGC's robin-robin format 'sucks'

By Grill Room TeamMarch 23, 2018, 9:20 pm

Graham DeLaet isn't teeing it up at Austin Country Club this week because he didn't qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but that doesn't mean he lacks an opinion on the event's format.

DeLaet hopped on social media Friday during Day 3 of the WGC-Match Play to torch the round-robin format that's been in place for three years, saying he much preferred the single elimination that was in place when he played in 2014.

"Played Match Play in Tucson in 2014. Early group on Wednesday, lost. Threw clubs in my car and was on my couch in Scottsdale by 2:00 pm. Collect 30K and spend the weekend at home, he tweeted. "That’s a good format. This one sucks."

DeLeat's comments may be the strongest to date, but he's not alone in his opposition to pool play. Several players lamented Friday's "meaningless" matches earlier this week, and Henrik Stenson cited the lack of a do-or-die atmosphere as his reason for skipping the event.

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Watch: Kuchar makes ace at WGC-Dell Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 9:09 pm

In his bid to advance to the weekend at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Matt Kuchar aced the par-3 seventh hole Friday at Austin Country Club.

With an 8-iron from 181 yards, Kuchar landed his ball short of the flag and watched it roll and roll ... and drop.

The hole-in-one moved Kuchar 3 Up in match against Ross Fisher. 

The last hole-in-one at the Match Play came in Sunday's consolation match last year, when Hideto Tanihara aced the same hole before later losing to Bill Haas.