Woods' Match Play record defies convention

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2013, 10:38 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – All together now – 18-holes of match play is the competitive equivalent of a scratch-off lottery ticket.

Each year we hear the same lament, a solid round can be spoiled by an opponent with a red-hot putter just as easily as a pedestrian display can be salvaged by an off-form adversary.

The contrast of match play is such that upsets – large and small – neither surprise nor circumvent the competitive integrity of the event. Consider that last year’s opening round featured 15 upsets and in 2011 there were 14 lower-seeded players who survived Round 1. Neither of those marks, by the by, come close to the all-time number of Round 1 stunners set in 1999 (18).


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In short, betting chalk at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is an occupational hazard.

For the better part of a decade, however, Tiger Woods has largely defied conventional wisdom, which may explain his Tuesday body language that featured neither angst nor apprehension.

If Woods was thinking short term on Tuesday at Dove Mountain he wasn’t letting on. “The only reason I enter events is to win,” he said. “It's not to make the cut or finish top 10 or even second. It's to win the event. There's really no reason to enter if you don't have the mindset or belief that you can win, and I feel like I can win every time I play.”

If the statistical reality of that comment doesn’t add up consider Woods’ record at golf’s version of March Madness pre-2009. In nine starts he has been bounced in Round 1 just once, in 2002, and has advanced past Day 2 on all but two occasions.

The capriciousness of match play aside, Woods still managed to win three of those nine outings. Of course, that was before his professional and personal fortunes took a wrong turn in late 2009. In his last three Match Play starts Woods hasn’t made it to Friday.

Yet there he was on a windblown stage on Tuesday, smiling for cameras and telling tales of his round with President Barack Obama on Sunday in south Florida.

“We won,” he beamed when asked about his four-ball match paired with the commander and chief.

And why shouldn’t Red Shirt view this week’s collection of title bouts with optimism?

He’s fresh off his seventh victory at the Farmers Insurance Open last month, (Note to WGC-Match Play organizers: if you want to improve Woods’ odds of advancing to Sunday’s final move the event to Torrey Pines) and is downright smitten with his new and improved short game.

It’s why this week’s Match Play is a curious litmus test for the world No. 2. Sure, he could be sent packing on Wednesday by Charles Howell III and the world would keep spinning, but for Woods all the things that make the WGC so confounding could only add to his budding confidence with a few solid matches.

His affinity for match play is evident. He referenced his victories at his three U.S. Junior and three U.S. Amateur triumphs when asked for his match play highlights on Tuesday.

“I was down in the final all three (U.S. Juniors) and all three (U.S. Amateurs) and came back and won all six of them. It's something I'm pretty proud of,” Woods said. “They're all different in their own way, but the fact that I came back in each one is something that has certainly given me a lot of confidence going forward and when I turned pro.”

Confidence. Some would argue it’s been the missing ingredient the last few seasons as Woods transitioned through a swing change and various injuries.

As a sports psychologist once explained to your scribe the Match Play is a collection of Sundays, each match bringing with it unique challenges normally only found late in final rounds.

For Woods, his Match Play performance in recent years has been a microcosm of the larger picture – getting better but not grooved enough to hold up when success or failure is so absolute.

“I don't have to worry about 155 other guys, it's just one guy in front of me,” said Woods, who has never won the Match Play on the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. “It's a lot of fun because we don't get a chance to do this very often, and usually it takes three days, sometimes three and a half days to come to a situation where it's one on one (at a stroke-play event). In general it's not the same group, (at the Match Play) we’re going at each other and we know exactly what they're doing.”

Stewart Cink was the last player to drop a championship match to Woods at the 2008 Match Play, a performance Cink dubbed a “defensive masterpiece.” Since then Woods has lost to Tim Clark (2009), Thomas Bjorn (2010) and Nick Watney (2012).

If that’s not exactly the all-star collection of would-be world beaters one would expect to find the explanation is simple – match play. It’s also why this Match Play could offer an interesting glimpse into Woods’ competitive future.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.