Category: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Not counting the majors and the Ryder Cup, here are the top 10 tournaments to watch in 2012.
1. Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 26-29
Officially replaces Torrey Pines as the unofficial start of the 2012 golf season now that Tiger's playing, although the field would still be pretty strong without him. Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Day will all make the trip to the desert this year.
2. AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, Calif., Feb. 9-12
There’s been a lot of buzz that Tiger Woods is considering adding Pebble to his 2012 schedule. If he does show up, he’ll be the third-biggest star here, after the course and a former greenskeeper who became the pro-am champion last year.
3. Accenture World Match Play Championship, Manana, Ariz., Feb. 22-26
March Madness comes early for golf fans. Last year, Luke Donald announced his candidacy for world’s best golfer with a dominating performance. Match play always creates some compelling drama, especially in a Ryder Cup year.
4. WGC-Cadillac Championship, Miami, Fla., March 8-11
The best players in the world are all together in a stroke-play event for the first time all year. The golf season might start at Kapalua, but it gets serious at Doral.
5. Arnold Palmer Invitational, Orlando, Fla., March 22-25
The King's tour stop is one of the crown jewels of the PGA Tour: great field, great atmosphere and great history.
6. Kraft Nabisco Championship, Rancho Mirage, Calif., March 29-April 1
Do you think having the world’s most dominant athlete in any sport (Yani Tseng) and a teenage phenom who’s won twice before even becoming an official LPGA member (Lexi Thompson) could create some stirring battles at the 2012 LPGA major? Yeah, us too.
7. Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte, N.C., May 3-6
Less than 10 years old, the Wells Fargo Championship is already one of the most important regular events on the schedule. Wells Fargo is back in the tournament name after a couple of years as the Quail Hollow Championship. Let's hope the Michael Jordan-Tiger Woods pro-am pairing returns as well.
8. The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., May 10-13
Forget what the doubters say -- this is still the fifth major, and the finishing holes are as recognizable as any in the game. When Rory McIlroy was at home tweeting during last year’s Players Championship, you could tell he wanted to be there. He’ll be back this year.
9. BMW PGA Championship, Surrey, England, May 24-27
The best final round of 2011 that didn't happen in Augusta, Ga., was the playoff duel between Luke Donald and Lee Westwood at the European PGA Championship with the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking on the line. We can't wait for the rematch.
10. The Barclays Championship, Farmingdale, N.Y., Aug. 23-26
The USGA doesn't sound too keen on returning the Bethpage Black any time soon, so this year's Barclays Championship will be your best chance to see America's greatest municipal golf course, unless you want to sleep in your car.
The Big Ones:
The Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga., April 5-8
U.S. Open, Olympic Club, San Francisco, Calif., June 14-17
British Open, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Lancashire, England, July 19-22
PGA Championship, Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, S.C., Aug. 9-12
The Ryder Cup, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill., Sept. 28-30
Tip of the visor to Golfweek’s Jeff Rude who nabbed the first in-depth interview with Jim Thorpe since the Champions Tour stalwart was released from prison; you can watch the video here. Thorpe spent one year in the Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Ala., a minimum-security facility, for failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes.
“I never thought I’d get old in life and have to go to a prison camp, but when you make mistakes in life, you pay for it,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe said his fellow inmates dubbed him “Ice Man” and “Old School” and that life in the camp, where the inmates have access to a movie theater, two basketball courts, two swimming pools and a pair of golf courses, was more tolerable than he had expected.
The food was pretty decent, too. Thorpe says he gained 20 pounds.
The golfer accepts full responsibility for his crime, but he still feels singled out.
“The funny thing is,” he says, “they never talk about the [taxes] you pay, it’s the ones you miss.”
Tiger RSVPs for the Honda. It’s a ‘no’
The last time we saw Tiger Woods, he was not happy. His eye bulged and proverbial steam poured out his ears as he tried to explain to reporters how he lost to Thomas Bjorn in the first round of the Match Play. The next time we’ll see Tiger? It won’t be at next week’s Honda Classic, as some had predicted.
There was some speculation that Woods, who has built a mansion on Jupiter Island and is expected to move in soon, would add the Honda Classic to his schedule after his first-round loss Wednesday in the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Woods has played only one round of PGA Tour golf - the match-play loss to Thomas Bjorn - since finishing in a tie for 44th place at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January. Woods also finished tied for 20th at the non-Tour Dubai Desert Classic event in February.
Woods, according to a spokesman's e-mail, will not play at Honda due to "existing commitments." The Honda Classic is March 3-6. Woods is expected to play next in the Cadillac Championship at Doral, which is an event he routinely includes on his schedule. That tournament is March 10-13.
Tour rookie ripe for Gillette sponsorship
In the last 24 hours much ink has been spilled over Rickie Fowler (heretofore the Pink Pant-er) and his 6-and-5 thumping of Phil Mickelson at the Match Play. But at the Tour’s other stop this week, in Mexico, another pro with inimitable style is making some noise of his own—Andres Gonzales. A Tour rookie, Gonzo hung up a 65 yesterday at the Mayakoba Golf Classic for a share of the first-round lead, wowing fans with both his game and his 'stache—a bold fu manchu that is more befitting of a fireball-hurling relief pitcher than a PGA Tour golfer. Brian Hurlburt at GolfLasVegasNow.com has more:
While his look will turn heads—those in Mexico believe he is Mexican and are speaking Spanish to him this week (he says he does “un poquito")—it will be his talent that earns the loyalty. Gonzales qualified for the PGA Tour with a 22nd-place finish at Q School in 2010. He has also earned his playing stripes with stints on several mini tours, claiming wins on at least four: Butch Harmon Vegas Tour, Canadian Tour, Gateway Tour, and A.G. Spanos Tour. Four wins on any professional tour is no fluke.
While he missed his first two cuts on the PGA Tour in 2011, he rallied back from very disappointing first rounds of 77 with rounds of 68 in both events he played prior to Mexico. Again, showing talent and determination when others might have faded.
Tweets of the Day
@stewartcink I don't know how to speak Korean so I told Yang "Thanks for the butt kicking" in English. I think he understood just fine.
Golf Magazine's Mike Walker live blogged the opening day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Tiger Woods lost his first-round match to Denmark's Thomas Bjorn at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz., Wednesday in a back-and-forth duel which lasted 19 holes. Afterward, Woods admitted he was frustrated with his game, which has been inconsistent since his return to golf last year following his scandals.
"Pissed, that's where I am right now," Woods said. "I had the momentum and I blew."
Bjorn won the Qatar Masters event on the European Tour earlier this month. He will face Geoff Ogilvy on Thursday in the second round of the tournament. Golf.com covered the Woods-Bjorn match in a Live Blog on Wednesday:
6:57 p.m. Time to shut down the Match Play Madness Live Blog for the day. Thanks to everyone who read and commented. I hope you had as much watching as we did. See you later!
6:54 p.m. Tiger didn't mince any words in his post-round interview with Roger Maltbie, who asked Woods where he was in his "process."
"Pissed, that's where I am right now," Tiger said. I had the momentum and I blew."
Tiger also had some kind words for Bjorn, whom he congratulated after the match.
"Thomas is one of my good friends," Tiger said. "He's a class act."
Tiger Woods announced on his website Friday that he will return to the PGA Tour next week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Woods, a three-time match play champion, missed last year's event while dealing with the fallout from a car crash on Thanksgiving.
In two events this season, Woods has yet to finish in the top 10. He tied for 44th at Torrey Pines, and Woods shot a final-round 75 to drop into a tie for 20th in Dubai. Woods apologized last week after he was criticized for spitting on a green.
The pairings are not finalized, but Woods is scheduled to face Thomas Bjorn in Wednesday's opening round at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
(Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
In September, 28-year-old European Tour player Elliot Saltman was disqualified from the Russian Challenge Cup for illegally marking his ball on more than one occasion. Since receiving a three-month ban from the Tour, Saltman, who strongly denied cheating, has taken and passed a lie detector test in an attempt to prove his innocence. Now Saltman has decided to accept his punishment as well as the stigma he feels will haunt him for the rest of his career.
To have people who don't know me, and who know nothing about me, go out in the media and question my honesty is really hurtful. To be accused of being a cheat is a terrible stigma, and sadly is one that I will now almost certainly have to carry for the rest of my life. I know there is a lot of sympathy for me among the players, although I am sure a few will give me a frosty reception. That will be difficult, but I will have to live with it.
Saltman's ban will be lifted in mid-April and he hopes to compete in the Spanish Open, which starts on May 5th.
Lefty Heading to the Desert
Back in January, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson indicated he might skip the Match Play Championship outside Tucson in order to take a vacation with his family. Fortunately for golf fans he's had a change of heart and has confirmed he will be participating in the event, which will take place at Ritz-Carleton GC at Dove Mountain. "I'll be there," he told the Associated Press after his final round at Pebble Beach, which adds to the magnitude of the event which will host the top 64 players (including Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, and Martin Kaymer) in the world competing in match play format.
TaylorMade 'white out' in Manhattan
TaylorMade and Golfsmith are joining forces to "White Out," Manhattan in a giant winter-themed promotion (it's today - if you live in the area). In order to promote the new R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0 drivers, the two companies have built a 120-foot long, 17-foot wide, 45-foot tall driving range in front of the Golfsmith location on 54th street. President and CEO of TaylorMade-Adidas, Mark King, is hosting the event in which he, Sergio Garcia, and Martin Kaymer will talk about why "black drivers are obsolete." The first 500 attendees will receive TaylorMade hats while a fortunate ten will win new drivers.
Tweet of the Day
@dougferguson405: With six weeks remaining before top 50 is set, and 7 events left, Masters already has 95 players in the field. Hasn't topped 100 since '66
Ryder Cup reactions (and overreactions)
Welcome to a Ryder Cup selection edition of Truth and Rumors. It seems like every sportswriter under the sun has an opinion on Corey Pavin's picks, and most of the heat in this debate centers around young Rickie Fowler. As The Golf Channel's Randall Mell points out, Fowler represents an unusually high risk on Pavin's part.
Rickie Fowler is a gamble.
He’s as much a captain's risk as he is a captain's pick.
There’s no way around it.
He’s a PGA Tour rookie who has never won a professional event.
That makes Fowler the boldest American captain’s pick in the history of the matches.
He seems destined to meet one of two spectacular extremes Oct. 1-3 at Celtic Manor in Wales. He seems destined to blossom or melt down.
A rookie on that stage? Is there any middle ground when you make your debut in the seventh game of the World Series? Because that’s what the Ryder Cup is like. It isn’t anything like golf’s major championships, where confidence and pressure build to a Sunday back-nine rush. The Ryder Cup is searing heat before the first shot is hit. It’s about winning and losing from the first hole. It’s about triumph and failure every hole. It’s about a player feeling as if he is lifting his team and country with every shot ... or letting them down. It's the kind of pressure that made American Mark Calcavecchia weep after he melted down and began hyperventilating at Kiawah Island in 1991.
“People tell you that you will be as nervous as you have ever been on the first tee of the Ryder Cup, and you say, `Nah.’ ... but you are that nervous,” American J.B. Holmes said of his Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Valhalla.
And that was a home game for Holmes.
The nature of the Ryder Cup stage is what makes Fowler a glorious gamble and a wondrous risk.
While it may seem like hyperbole at first, it really is impossible to think of an American captain's pick who has accomplished less than Rickie Fowler, so it stands to reason that Mell is right to call Pavin's choice a risky one. At the same time, I disagree that we should be expecting either a spectacular or spectacularly bad performance from Fowler in Wales. He's a young kid with a lot of talent who has played well but not broken through, a trend I expect to continue in the Ryder Cup. I see Fowler playing well but not brilliantly, which is probably all Pavin can hope for given his other options. In the short term, I think that J.B. Holmes himself would have been a better selection for this team, but I see Fowler being a leader for the American squad in years to come (something I can't really say for Holmes), so I suppose the sooner he gets his feet wet in international competition, the better.
The only other divisive pick for the American side was also the most obvious one: Tiger Woods. Despite the Pavin/Gray near-brawl of 2010, did any of us really think this Ryder Cup would be Tiger-free? Despite the obviousness of the pick, not everyone can agree on whether it was the right one to make. Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union thinks that the U.S. team would be better off without the world number one
Woods brings obvious baggage to the U.S. team. He hasn't won since last year. He's played a bit better recently since his abysmal performance at the Bridgestone Invitational, but hasn't been in serious contention. His divorce is final but that won't stop the British tabloids from hounding him in Wales -- which could affect the team.
And the U.S. proved it could win without Woods, a marginal match-play performer who has been unable to mesh on a consistent basis with anyone, in Valhalla in 2008.
Now, let's play amateur psychologist for a bit. Woods will bring heat and pressure on himself and the U.S. team. But European captain Colin Montgomerie has been prone to rash and controversial statements during his tenure, and he created controversy when he left off the world's No. 8-ranked player, Paul Casey, and Justin Rose, who was 3-1 in the last Ryder Cup.
Monty is the Ozzie Guillen of golf. It's almost a sure bet he will say something during the run-up or during the week of the Ryder Cup himself to bring unwanted heat on the European team. With Woods on the U.S. team, that will be minimized. There will be a lightning rod on both sides...
Also, who will Pavin pick to play with Woods? And does he trot Woods out for all five sessions, as in the past? Woods' Ryder Cup report card has very large red letters that say, "Does not play well with others." Right now, who would want to play with Woods? He could be the drag on any doubles team.
The idea of forming a Ryder Cup team, through the points system and captain's picks, is to get the best team possible as close to the Ryder Cup as possible. Right now, I don't believe the best 12 U.S. players includes Tiger Woods.
Smits seems to be suffering from the bane of all hyper-reactive sportswriters: a very selective memory. Referring to Tiger as a "marginal match-play performer" is as popular as it is ridiculously untrue. Tiger Woods is the best match play golfer of all time and if you don't believe me, ask anyone who's played him in a WGC event. As for the Ryder Cup, Woods is 3-1-1 in singles. Yes, he's been mediocre or worse in doubles (struggling mightily to find a partner who could play with him...or stand him), but the question of "who would want to play with Woods" was answered last year, when Tiger and Steve Stricker went 4-0-0 in their Presidents Cup matches. There's plenty to worry about with Tiger's game, and you can play "amateur psychologist" all you want, but you can't rewrite history.
If those are the biggest question marks for the guys who made the team, what about the guys who didn't? ESPN's Justin Ray takes a look at the three players he considers to be the biggest snubs of this year's Ryder Cup class.
It can be argued that every baseball season, when the managers for the All-Star game announce who will be filling out the rosters for their respective leagues, that the most interesting part of the entire event is seeing who made the teams and who -- to use a cliché -- was 'snubbed.'
Golf fans don't have that rock-solid tie to a collective group of players (unless you work for Nike, or Adidas, or the like), but there have to be fans of Nick Watney, Lucas Glover and Anthony Kim who have been left disappointed by Pavin's announcements Tuesday morning. All that being said, let's look at a few of the players who have the most legitimate gripes about not being picked for the team that will be heading to Wales for the Oct. 1-3 matches.
Anthony Kim Higher world ranking (16th) than: Cink, Johnson, Fowler More FedExCup points than: Cink
Nick Watney Higher world ranking (31st) than: Cink, Fowler More FedExCup points than: Woods, Cink
Charley Hoffman Higher world ranking (51st) than: None of the four More FedExCup points than: All of the four
Ray goes into detail on all three players, and I think he'd readily admit that the term "snub" can barely be applied to any of them. Kim is a victim of his injury (even one top-20 after his return might have gotten him the invite) and Hoffman, besides being barely more proven (and seemingly significantly less talented) than Rickie Fowler, turned it on too late. The only real option on this list is Watney, and given the choice, I don't think I would have taken him over J.B. Holmes or even Justin Leonard, much less Fowler. If this list tells us anything, it's that Corey Pavin's options were pretty limited. Let's put it this way, if Paul Casey suddenly found an American passport under his mattress, he wouldn't be watching the Cup on T.V.
Golf Magazine's Cameron Morfit is live blogging the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Join the conversation by leaving a question or comment below.
5:58 Here's what it looks like for day three: Ishikawa vs. Jaidee, Singh vs. Poulter, Clark vs. Garcia, Wilson vs. Donald, Watney vs. Els/Goosen, Crane vs. Villegas, Schwartzel vs. Cink, and Casey vs. Gay. I like Ishikawa, Poulter, Clark, Wilson, Watney, Villegas, Cink and Casey to advance. And judging from the way things have been going in this tournament, I'll be lucky if I'm even half-right. So long everyone--until tomorrow's non-press conference from you know who.
5:55 Just when it looked like Els was taking command, he hits a 7-iron that goes about 90 feet past the pin. Goosen missed the green way right. Anybody want to win this last match? And good for Ishikawa, doing an interview with Golf Channel's Jim Gray. I give the kid major props for trying out his English on national television.
5:52 And down goes Westwood, as Watney advances to the third round to play the winner of the Els/Goosen match. Ishikawa closes out McGowan, whoever he was. No more top seeds remain.
5:50 Okay, Els finally makes a birdie putt after his lackluster chip on 15. Maybe he'll pull this thing out after all. Goosen misses 10-foot birdie putt to fall 1-down to Ernie with three remaining.
5:47 Strangest sponsorship in golf: UPS pitchman Lee Westwood, who's on the ropes in his match against Watney. Els is hitting some nervous looking shots coming in, including that not so bueno chip on 15. He should probably have closed out Goosen by now with any kind of timely putting.
5:44 If you accept that Casey is the man to beat now, you've got to put Cink as a close second in that department. The reigning British Open champion just knocked off O'Hair to advance to round three, where he'll play Schwartzel. Golf Channel points out almost every match today has been won by the lower seed, making this nutty event the short-track speed skating of golf.
5:39 Watney has Westwood on the ropes, with a 2-up lead with two to play. Barring a stirring comeback, Westwood's record of futility in this event continues: 10 starts, never past the second round. At least his kids will be glad to see him.
5:34 Ishikawa, 18, is looking more and more like the best of the bunch when it comes to the crowded field of prodigies. I remember watching him at the Presidents Cup, alternate-shot, when he had to follow Tiger's opening tee shot. Ryo blasted his own tee shot right down the sprinkler line, as far as Woods, then gave the thumbs-up to International captain Greg Norman. A few days later he beat Kenny Perry. Interviewing Ishikawa at Pebble last week, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that Perry was old enough to be Ishikawa's dad. The Japanese star laughed and admitted it was true, but that he'd been beating his dad since he was 11.
5:26 So far this week is definitely putting the "world" into the World Golf Championships. So far we've got Thailand (Jaidee), India (Singh), Colombia (Villegas), South Africa (Clark, Schwartzel), Spain (Garcia), England (Casey, Donald, Poulter, Wilson) and America (Crane, Gay) represented in the third round.
5:25 Els just missed yet another short birdie putt on par-5 13th hole, another gift to Goosen. Big Easy is putting like he has for most of the last five years or so and they remain all square. Ishikawa inching closer to closing out 66th-ranked McGowan, Cink looking like he's going to go 1-up over O'Hair.
5:16 Nick Watney rolls in birdie putt to regain 1-up lead over Westwood, the last remaining top seed. There are still a few big names on the board, but this could very easily turn into another year like the first Accenture, when Maggert beat Magee in the 38-hole final. (The ultimate experience for sports fans everywhere: Two extra holes of Maggert and Magee.)
5:15 Goosen makes short birdie putt to square his match with Els. Do these guys even like each other? You'd never know they were countrymen who have known each other for years.
5:10 Okay, I've avoided it long enough. It's time to tackle the big issue of the day: Why is Tim Clark using a yellow golf ball? He said Wednesday he only started using it when he put it in play for nine holes of his practice round Tuesday, for no particular reason. Here are his comments, courtesy of ASAP Sports: "It's just a color. I don't hit it far enough not to see a white one, but some guys it might help them. It's interesting, though, you really do see the ball a lot better."
5:03 Westwood holes out from the bunker to square his match with Watney. Did I predict four, maybe five Americans would get through to the third round? Um, I may have to revise that down.
5 Well, it turns out Els remains only 1-up over Goosen after he misses shorty and Goosen makes. Charl Schwartzel eliminates Furyk 3&2. Another American and another top seed bites the dust. Garcia dispatches A. Hansen 2&1 after being three down thru five. All together now: Here comes Sergio Garcia! Golf could use a big year from him, as well as Els and Mickelson.
4:54 Karlsson drains long putt to stay alive on 13. Would be a comeback for the ages. Els about to go 2-up on Goosen. Cink nukes tee shot to reach par-4 15th and give himself shot at eagle. I'm seeing a lot of right-to-left from usual fader Stewart the last few days.
4:49 Here's what I think of Casey: He's the English version of Ogilvy. When he's on, as he was at the 2006 Ryder Cup, Casey has star written all over him. The problem is it comes and it goes, much the way it seems to with Ogilvy. Granted, no one is likely to match the consistency of Woods, but there's a lot of middle ground between the hot-and-cold Casey/Ogilvy and Tiger's freakish reliability (on the golf course, anyway).
4:48 Kevin writes: "Regarding Paul Casey, Peter Kostis (his coach) has been saying for a while now that he's really close to cracking through. We saw some evidence last year, but his putting needs to improve if he will contend in the majors - particularly the annual april putting contest held down in Georgia. His 121st in putting stat from 2009 shouldn't hinder him at St. Andrews though."
4:45 So long, Geoff Ogilvy, sent packing by Camilo Villegas. And Golf Channel now reports that Ogilvy just turned down their request for an interview, and he looks angry. Maybe Camilo should be the angry one, with all the on-air comment about his hair. On second thought he probably loves it. In any case, like Ron says, Paul Casey is now officially the man to beat. Or Cink, if he squeaks past O'Hair.
4:40 For the second straight day, Cink is mounting a big back-nine charge. He's just birdied two holes to square his match with O'Hair through 13 holes. Think back to last year's Accenture, when he finished third, or the Ryder Cup when he absolutely annihilated Sergio Garcia, or his epic sudden-death playoff with Woods at Firestone--some of Cink's best golf has been in match play situations.
4:33 Anybody have Thongchai Jaidee making it past his first two matches? The man is 4-up on Swedish Skyscraper Robert Karlsson, who just won on the Euro tour. This tournament is darn near impossible to predict. And Clark flips his yellow golf ball to the crowd after making it official over Kaymer. The only remaining boy genius is Ishikawa, 1-up over Stricker-killer McGowan.
4:28 Okay, Tim Clark just went 3-up on Kaymer with three to play. Call that one over. So much for my prediction that Kaymer would make a big comeback. J.M. Singh eliminates Kuchar; another American bites the dust. Good for Singh. Nice guy, and he has one of only two fulltime female caddies in the game, along with Stenson's (Fanny Sunneson).
4:25 Ron says, "Paul Casey is the man to beat." That could be even more true in a few minutes, as Villegas just holed a putt to go 2-up over Ogilvy with two holes to play. The defending champion and match play savant is on the ropes!
4:20 Pesky, never-say-die Furyk mounting a comeback against Schwartzel, got it to all square. Pesky, never-say-die Poulter moves on to the third round, dispatching Scott.
4:18 Gay closes out Johnson, who may have been a bit rusty after taking the last four weeks off; Crane closes out Yang 3&2. Be honest: Did anybody have Gay getting this far? Two years ago he was winning the Mayacoba Classic. Speaking of which, Joe Durant fired a 65 to take a one-shot lead over three players down in Mexico. Daly shot 3-under; Duval even through 10.
4:12 Villegas just comfortably drove the 333-yard par-4 15th hole, leaving himself about 20 feet for eagle, which would presumably put him 1-up over Ogilvy. Hey, Kelly and Nick, anyone still believe Villegas lost his strength by cutting his hair?
4:10 Poulter has Scott by two with two to play; Crane has Yang by three with three to play. I'm considering those matches over. Faldo has to be loving all the Brits marching into the Sweet 16: Casey, Donald, Wilson, probably Poulter, maybe Westwood and McGowan. Yesterday's giant-killer McGowan is all square with superkid Ishikawa through 10.
4:05 Golf Channel wags noting that the greens have been redone, which is becoming quite common for Nicklaus designs. Garcia sandy puts him 1-up over Anders Hansen, who is vying with Ross McGowan for most likely to need a name tag in the media room. Crane showing some nerves there, leaving putt six feet short as he tries to close out Yang.
4 pm Penny writes to say, "thank you for talking about the matches and not what's his name." Penny, I can only assume you mean new LPGA commish Michael Whan, who's received plenty of pub already. I shant be blogging about him. BTW, Sergio Garcia is turning into David Duval with those glasses.
3:50 pm Nick Watney, 1-up on Westwood through seven holes, leads the Americans still alive. Crane now 3-up on Yang thru 13, and Kuchar, with second straight birdie, now just 1-down to Singh. Furyk 2-down to Schwartzel with eight holes left, and O'Hair 2-up on Cink thru 10. Also, Gay 1-up on Johnson with two holes remaining. So we'll likely have at least four Americans left after today.
3:47 pm Oliver Wilson knocks out Rory Mac, who joins Sim, Dustin Johnson and possibly Kaymer among the prodigies to make an early exit. Wilson now must play Donald in battle of the Brits.
3:36 pm Goosen chips in to square match with Els. Speaking of the two South Africans, we still have the possibility of a 36-hole final between Walker and Ryder Cup teammates Casey and Donald of England, and Presidents Cup teammates and friends Ogilvy and Scott of Australia. Villegas just blistered a 5-iron to tap-in distance for eagle and likely 1-up lead over defending champ Ogilvy.
3:33 pm Titleist is now enlisting everyday duffers to promote the Pro V1 ball. Good idea? Not sure I care about what "Bernhard" is playing with, unless it's Langer.
3:30 pm And here comes Matt Kuchar, making putt to go only 2-down with four to play in match with J.M. Singh. Tiny terror Tim Clark now 2-up over top seed Kaymer.
3:26 pm Oliver Wilson taking a page out of the Crane/J.B. Holmes/Harrington playbook, examining every blade of grass on the green before his 18-foot birdie try on 19th hole. Still missed. Rory Mac left with 12-footer for the win; misses. On to the 20th hole.
3:26 pm What is it about playing Ogilvy that causes people to miss putts? Tour pros get up and down 80% of the time from where Villegas just was; he didn't. Still all square.
3:22 pm Crane's got a lot more personality than people think. He did a great impression of his good-old-boy agent after he won the Farmers, got big laughs. Scott nearly pitches in for eagle, but Poulter drains eight-footer to get the halve. Poulty is tough. Still 1-up.
3:18 pm Are they allowing fans at the Accenture, or is it restricted like Tiger's non-press conference? Looks like plenty of good seats available.
3:15 pm Rory makes clutch putt to force extra holes with Wilson; J.M. Singh 3 up on Kuchar thru 13. Crane 1 up on Yang. How about Crane playing 17 holes Wednesday by himself? Reminds me of Mark Calcavecchia's comment on playing with the then-quiet Faldo: "Like playing by yourself, only slower."
3:06 pm Zach Johnson cuts deficit, now only 1-down to Gay with five remaining. Grittiest match play guys left in the field: Zach, Cink, Casey (already through to sweet 16), Ogilvy and Poulter, who just went 1-up over Scott. Ernie drains long putt to go 1-up over Retief, South Africa division.
3:02 pm Ryo Ishikawa, prodigy division, takes 1-up lead over McGowan, no-name division.
3 pm Weir will have to chip in if he wants to keep this thing going. Nope, it's over. Casey, 5&4.
2:59 pm Rory Mac's monumental cut on 18 tee and 300-yard bomb suggests his back is feeling fine.
2:56 pm Nice to see Adam Scott hanging in there against match play ace Poulter. All square thru 11.
2:54 pm Wilson just made a four-and-a-half footer to halve 17 with Rory. What nerves?
2:53 pm If they ever move the Masters to Tucson in February, Geoff Ogilvy's got it made. Guy hits it so high he just easily stopped a 5-iron on the green.
2:52 pm Oops, Weir wasn't dormie. Now he's dormie, five down to Casey with five to play.
2:50 pm Jeev Milkha-Singh and Geoff Ogilvy: Proof that having a newborn around the house doesn't have to wreck your golf game.
2:47 pm Golf Channel update! Michelle Wie already six back after first round of LPGA lid-lifter. Not what the new commish was probably hoping for.
2:43 pm Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer both in an early hole, but I look for both to work their way out of it. Cink's comeback Wednesday was truly exceptional.
2:36 pm Christian writes: "I think recent form has at least something to do with it. Luke Donald has been playing well recently as well." I guess that's true, but he's been playing under-the-radar well. His wrist injury last year seemed to take a lot out of him, and he's generally been something of an enigma.
2:36 pm Zach Johnson in early hole to fellow bunter Brian Gay. What are the odds that both would make the second round on this monstrously long course?
2:26 pm Mike Weir wandering around the desert looking for his ball. Been there, brother.
2:35 pm Golf Channel announcers seem to think Wilson is on the verge of folding. Match with Rory Mac just went to all square with three to go.
2:33 pm Ben Crane looks like a miniature Stewart Cink; Oliver Wilson is slightly Harringtonian.
2:29 pm I spoke to Craig Stadler the other day, and asked him if he could help explain Geoff Ogilvy's gaudy record in this thing. "I have no idea," Stads said. "Why did Jim Thorpe win the old Seiko Match Play two years in a row?" Perhaps it's because Ogilvy is so cerebral? He seems to have figured it out.
2:25 pm How much does recent form play into this thing? After Stricker, Johnson and now Allenby early exits, I'm thinking not much.
2:23 pm Like Weir on Wednesday, Donald is showing the value of a hot putter. Bye, bye, Allenby, thanks for coming.
2:20 pm Camilo Villegas, playing tourney fave Geoff Ogilvy, needs a big year after a nothing 2009. A W over Mr. Match Play would be a great start. About to be all square through eight.
2:16 pm Accenture has replaced Tiger Woods with animatronic fish and animals.
2:15 pm Y.E. Yang drains putt in tight tilt with Ben Crane. Now there's a match we didn't expect to be watching a year ago.
2:14 pm Oliver Wilson, 2 up on Rory Mac, is reminding me of Charles Barkley with that pre-shot routine.
2:11 pm Luke Donald dominating Robert Allenby. Be honest: Did you see that one coming?
2:08 pm I'm not entirely sure I could identify Ross McGowan in a crowd, but he may be the only Tour pro who actually likes Tiger at the moment. Interesting to observe the backlash in Arizona. Has Tiger lost his last constituency, the guys to whom he's meant literally millions of dollars?
2:02 pm Greetings, fellow golf fans. Oy, Mike Weir needed to bank some of those nine birdies he made Wednesday. Paul Casey's already got him dormie; Casey 4-up with four to go.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, chatted briefly with reporters at the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship in a spontaneous, but brief, interview to respond to the news that Tiger Woods will make a statement Friday morning from PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Finchem was at his diplomatic best, but he did seem a little annoyed (or maybe I just imagined it) that news from Tiger World was just about guaranteed to push his flagship World Golf Championship event to the back page of the sports section for the rest of the weekend. The event was lacking in buzz to start with thanks to the absence of Woods and Phil Mickelson, and was already feeling overshadowed by the Olympic Games in Vancouver. Now, Tiger will dominate the news with speculation about his return until at least Saturday evening.
Asked how much contact he's had with Woods, Finchem answered, "None." He added that he has no idea what Tiger's plans are, what his schedule is (if he is, in fact, returning to golf and presumably he is) or what he's going to say to Friday's invitation-only gathering. "I'm not assuming anything," Finchem said.
There's no way to minimize news about Woods but if there's a best time to announce something, it would be on a Friday morning (allowing the weekend news cycle to overtake it) during the Winter Olympics. However, Tiger is such big news that his statement will be carried live on a number of networks. Also, as player Rory McIlroy jokingly suggested when he was told about Tiger's planned announcement, the timing of it is a way to "get back at the sponsor that dropped him." Accenture was among the first of Tiger's sponsors to distance itself from Woods after the car accident and subsequent mistress scandal.
This is from the official notice to the press from IMG's Mark Steinberg, Tiger's agent:
What: Tiger Woods speaking to friends, associates and colleagues gathered at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Viewing: As a courtesy, credentialed reporters can view the talk at... the Sawgrass Marriott.
Most reporters won't consider that a courtesy, FYI.