Although the comment stopped well short of “trash talk” – and let’s be honest, ever since Stephen Ames in 2006 opponents have avoided doling out bulletin-board fodder – Charles Howell III’s swing coach didn’t avoid the red-shirted elephant in the room on Monday.
In a statement Gary Gilchrist, who began working with Howell last year, said his man’s Round 1 bout with Tiger Woods on Wednesday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be a timely litmus test.
“It will be a good measure of where his game is today with facing Tiger. It will definitely test him and will hopefully open the eyes of many to the new direction of Charles’ game,” Gilchrist said.
Although Woods won his last start at Torrey Pines and will begin the week as a No. 1-seeded player, he’s lost twice in the first round of the Match Play (2002 and 2011) and hasn’t made it past the second round since 2008, when he won his third Match Play title.
Howellbegan the year 117th in the world ranking but jumped into the top 64 (he dropped to 66th this week after missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open) thanks to top-10 finishes at his first three starts of year at the Sony Open, Humana Challenge and Farmers Insurance Open.
If Woods advances past the first round he could face Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in Round 2. Woods slipped past Fernandez-Castano in Round 1 last year, 1 up, and the Spaniard faces Francesco Molinari, who halved his Sunday singles match against Woods at last year’s Ryder Cup, on Thursday.