The differing appeal of match play
As Tiger Woods knows only too well, the beauty and, for many, the brutality of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship lies in its uncertainty.
Matchplay is much more unpredictable than strokeplay and because of the extraordinary depth in the global game, anyone in this week’s 64-man field is capable of clinching the title.
Former world number one Woods is a three-times winner of the event but he has also suffered early disappointment, losing at the first hurdle in 2002 and going out in the second round in both 2005 and 2009.
“It’s a great event,” Woods told reporters at Dove Mountain’s Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Tuesday. “We don’t get a chance to play too many matchplay events. We play strokeplay all the time.
“Usually (in strokeplay) it takes three, three-and-a-half days to get yourself in position to go head-to-head with somebody and generally you are not in the same group. But this is right from the very get-go, so it’s fun.”
Britain’s Lee Westwood, who replaced Woods as world number one in November, agreed.
“It’s exciting, you don’t know what to expect, it throws up some surprises,” said the Englishman, who will face Swede Henrik Stenson in Wednesday’s opening round.
“And the first day is probably one of the most exciting days of the year as far as golf spectators are concerned, watching all the different matches going on.”
German world number two Martin Kaymer, who claimed his first major title at last year’s PGA Championship, felt world rankings were irrelevant in the matchplay format.
“If you play against (world) number one or against number 64 … it doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “And if he’s from Korea, from Sweden, from England, from America, it doesn’t really matter.”
For U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, this week’s event offers a deceptively easy chance of victory.
“Mathematically it’s probably the easiest golf tournament you will ever win,” the Northern Irishman said. “You only need to beat six guys, but it doesn’t work out like that.
“You’ve got 64 great players here this week all trying to do their job. So it’s all about who you play on the day, very much.”
“More crazy stuff happens in matchplay than will ever happen in a strokeplay tournament,” said Australian Geoff Ogilvy, winner in 2006 and 2009.
“You’ll see guys chip in to go down to extra holes or you’ll see a guy win four holes in a row or hole three 30-footers in a row.”
Westwood, Kaymer, triple Masters champion Phil Mickelson and world number three Woods are the top seeds in the four groups of 16 for this week’s event.
Kaymer will launch his campaign against emerging South Korean talent Noh Seung-yul while left-hander Mickelson takes on Australian Brendan Jones in the first round.
Woods, who won the 2008 title by a record 8&7 margin over fellow American Stewart Cink, will make his second PGA Tour start of the year when he takes on Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn.
A 14-times major champion, Woods will also be bidding for his first victory in 15 months after struggling with his game and private life.
Holder Ian Poulter, who beat fellow Briton Paul Casey 4&2 in last year’s final, will launch his title defence against Cink.