AUSTIN, Texas – It wasn’t pretty. But it’s match play. So it didn’t have to be. Some ruminations from Tiger Woods’ 3-and-1 victory over Aaron Wise on Wednesday:
· A masterclass this was not, especially early. Woods won the first hole with a bogey and was 2 up after him and Wise combined to play the first four holes in 6 over. “If this was a stroke play event, we'd be pretty far behind,” Woods joked after the match. They settled down with matching birdies at the fifth and sixth and the quality of play mercifully improved from there. In fact, Wise ripped off three straight holes from Nos. 8-10 to flip the match and take a 1 up lead himself. Tiger appeared in serious danger of going 2 down at 11 before a key swing – a surprising Woods make and a surprising Wise miss – evened the match and kicked momentum back in his favor. Wise stayed game for two more holes but started leaking oil with a spun wedge into the water at 13. From there, Tiger leaned on him until he fell over, with the final closeout coming on 17, following a Wise three-putt.
· Lending credence to the idea that Tiger has been tracking himself this whole time, he did my job for me after the round, offering this recap: “It was a pretty emotional match because we were up and down, up and down,” he said. “There weren't a lot of holes halved. And I was just kind of hanging in there. I was up early and then all of a sudden I'm down. And it looked like I was going to go 2 down and, all of a sudden, it's all square. Then I am flipping it up. Then I throw away one with a three-putt. It was one of those matches where we weren't playing our best. And on a golf course like this, it exposed us a little bit.”
· Credit to Wise for being unafraid. It was a nervy start, and it was certainly a loose finish, but the reigning Rookie of the Year took three straight holes off a 14-time major winner after a horrible start. It’s no surprise he won so quickly and it won’t be a surprise when he wins again. A tribute to match play, he carded a double, six bogeys, six birdies and only three pars in 17 holes.
· As for Tiger – four birdies and four bogeys. He joked after the round about how little anything other than the W matters in match play. Someone asked him what he shot. “I broke 80,” he flatlined.
· Up next, Brandt Snedeker at 11:32 local. “Sneds and I have always been great friends,” Tiger said. “And it's going to be fun to play against him. He's a wonderful putter, as we all know. And in this format that's what you need to do.”