I watched all of Tiger Woods’s play on Wednesday and Thursday this past week at the WGC Accenture Match Play. Tiger has become such a polarizing figure. Either people love him or hate him it seems. If you post something about Tiger on a blog or social network, the haters hate and the lovers love.
Round One vs Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (a.k.a. Gonzo)
Tiger comes into the match play a #5 seed. That was odd. He plays a relatively unknown player from Spain in Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Gonzo). Gonzo wins the first two holes and it was looking like Tiger would be closed out by the 10th. Tiger had driving issues and some matchplay mistakes, like going into the desert when Gonzo had done so. Gonzo started to play poorly and was obviously nervous. Tiger played just well enough to win, edging Gonzo 1up. It wasn’t impressive, but it was a win and that’s what match play is all about–playing good enough to beat your opponent.
Round Two vs Nick Watney
In round two versus Nick Watney Tiger tightened up the ball striking quite a bit. Interesting how things can be so different from one day to the next on the same golf course. The only really bad tee shot Tiger hit on the back was his tee shot on #10, which went into a left fairway bunker and gave him an awkward stance with heels touching the lip. The resulting shot from that bunker found a club flying backward then hitting Tiger in the foot, and the ball flying right of the green into the desert by a cactus and rock. The language after that shot was NSFW. The following cactus shot was the 2nd left handed shot Tiger hit in as many rounds. The joke was that Tiger hit more left handed shots than Phil Mickelson, who of course took the week off for a family vacation.
As good as the ball striking was in the 2nd round, the putting was not. Tiger missed some seven putts under 15 feet, many blocks to the right. The most crucial miss right was the final putt on the 18th hole after bombing a 300 yard drive and stuffing a 188 yard approach to less than six feet. The putt had to drop to extend the match to extra holes. Opponent Nick Watney was so sure Tiger would make the putt, that he’d already started looking at his yardage book and planning his strategy for the first playoff hole. Puzzlingly, Tiger’s clutch putt didn’t drop. In fact it didn’t even tough the hole.
After the round Tiger commented on the blocked putts and said he should be able to fix it in about a day. A technical answer which puzzled me. If it is that easy to fix, why not fix it before?
During the past week, and in previous recent appearances, I’ve seen Tiger making rehearsal moves with the swing. He’s doing them over and over, changing and looking at positions. He seems to be focusing heavily on body positions, club positions, swing plane and any of a number of 27 other technical aspects of his swing. I’m wondering if he’s focusing too much on being technical and using technical explanations for bad swings, rather than using feel. After every tournament in post round interviews, Tiger already has the explanation for whatever has gone wrong technically and how he’s going to work on it.
It seems like Tiger plays better when he’s feeling and visualizing shots and especially putts, versus being a robot or machine. Perhaps this is a case of what my pops calls “analysis paralysis.” Maybe a feel based approach is better than over analyzing?
I had fun picking winners in the brackets this past week during the WGC Accenture Match Play. For some dumb reason I kept picking against Hunter Mahan, clear up through the final round. I think my bad luck with fantasy golf and golf bracket picks are what propelled Hunter to victory, not his unmatched ball striking or new fantastic putting with the new Ping Nome putter.
How good is Hunter Mahan anyway? His putting was a bit of an issue before but that seems to have been resolved. The short game is a bit sketchy and still the weak link, but that part of his game seems to be much improved as well. Hunter moves up to #9 in the world.
Speaking of PING, I bet they were feeling pretty good this past week. Not only did Mahan give them a ton of love regarding their new Nome putter, three of the four finalists in the match play were PING players: Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood and Mark Wilson. McIlory is a Titleist player.
The match between McIlory and Mahan wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I was surprised that McIlroy was as flat as he was at the first, but he did make a match of it after winning holes 11 and 14 to get back to two down. McIlroy will be #1 in the world. Just a matter of time. I love watching Rory McIlroy play. His ball striking is unbelievable. He hits irons SO high and so long with more spin than anyone out there. The spin can be a problem though, as sometimes he’ll spin it back too far. And how about his new 3-wood which he’s hitting some 330 yards?
This year will be great, as McIlroy is an official member and will be playing mostly on the PGA Tour. Lucky us, here in the USA.
I’m happy that Lee Westwood also made the decision to play the PGA Tour this season as well. We are stacked this year.
Westwood is so good, and he’s much more fit now than before. You can see it. What I like most about Westwood, other than his game, is his sense of humor. Love watching his interviews. It is time for Lee to win a major. I like his chances at the Masters, but I’m afraid that he may have to beat out McIlroy this year.
I’m going to do a separate post for Tiger. TW got next, so to speak.
I was as shocked as everyone else when Luke Donald was thumped 5&4 by the lowest seed, Ernie Els. Harsh wake up call for Luke’s season opener, getting ousted in the first round. I wonder if that will fire up Luke for the rest of the season?
Yes I know Phil didn’t play this week. It would be cool to see him in this tournament because it is match play. That gives Phil even more of an opportunity to gamble on shots without blowing up the medal play score. As hot as he is playing now, you’d think he could have gone deep into the bracket. How fun would a Mickelson/McIlroy or Mickelson/Mahan match be? How about if the bracket had a Tiger/Phil match-up? That would have to be in the first round or two though. If you catch my drift.
The semi-final matches today’s WGC Accenture Match Play are now completed. Hunter Mahan defeated Mark Wilson 2&1. Despite going three down early in the match, Rory McIlroy defeated Lee Westwood 3&1.
The championship match will be the very hot Hunter Mahan vs Rory McIlroy. Should McIlroy win, he will ascend to #1 in the world rankings.
The consolation match will be Mark Wilson versus Lee Westwood.
WGC Accenture Match Play Championship Match TV Schedule
This afternoon’s championship and consolation matches will be aired on NBC from 2pm-6pm Eastern time. Pull up some munchies and frosty beverages and enjoy the show.
Saturday WGC Accenture Match Play Results
Hunter Mahan defeated Matt Kuchar 6&5
Mark Wilson defeated Peter Hanson 4&3
Rory McIlroy defeated Sang-Moon Bae 3&2
Lee Westwood defeated Martin Laird 4&2
Sunday Semi-Final Matches
10 Mark Wilson vs 6 Hunter Mahan
1 Rory McIlroy vs 1 Lee Westwood
9 P Hanson vs 10 M Wilson
1 R McIlroy vs 11 S Bae
4 M Kuchar vs 6 H Mahan
1 L Westwood vs 10 M Laird
Weekend TV Schedule
SAT: 12-2pm ET Golf Channel
SAT: 2-6pm ET NBC
SUN: 9am-1:00pm ET Golf Channel
SUN: 2pm-6pm ET NBC