Everything you need to know about Tiger Woods you could've learned
at last week's Accenture Match Play Championship. For
convenience, we've shortened the list to five items. ¬∂ First, he
will beat you in any format--match play, stroke play, Stableford,
Bingo Bango Bongo. After defeating David Toms 2 and 1 in the
final at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., Woods checked
off one more line on his to-do list: He has now won each of the
four of the World Golf Championships at least once and has seven
such titles overall. ¬∂ Second, his surgically repaired left knee
is A-O.K. We thought so after he won his first start after a two-
month layoff, at the Buick Invitational, but now it is officially official.
This is an article from the March 10, 2003 issue
Third, all the talk about Ernie Els's closing the gap on Woods is
so much wishful thinking. In tough conditions Tiger made only one
bogey in his first five matches and for the week won 28 holes
while losing just eight. If this were tennis, no one would've
have taken a set from him.
Fourth, Woods is not playing as well as he did in 2000, the year
he won nine times, including three majors. He's playing better.
He has more shots now, he says. Attention, PGA Tour: Go to red
alert. "When he plays good, he wins. We all know that," says
Toms. "He has won seven of the 14 World Golf Championships he's
played. I'd like to have those numbers."
Finally, match play is unpredictable. Tiger isn't.
Here's a day-by-day account of how Woods ran his Match Play
record to 14--3, and other points of interest.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 26 Scratch one Clash of the Titans. The final
will not be Woods, the best player in the world, versus Ernie
Els, the hottest player on the planet, thanks to Phil Tataurangi,
the best player in New Zealand whose name no one can spell.
Tataurangi, who last summer bounced back from heart surgery to
win for the first time on Tour, in Las Vegas, holds a slim lead
on Els until a three-putt at 16 and wild drive at 17 put the big
South African one up. If Tataurangi misses a 26foot birdie putt
on the final hole, the match is over. What are the odds? Never
mind, he pours it into the center of the cup. "I knew he was
going to make it," says a chagrined Els. "I don't even know why I
watched." He's also watching on the second extra hole, a
210-yard par-3, when Tataurangi flags a six-iron to two feet to
win the match.
Woods does his part, beating Carl Pettersson of Sweden, but the
Els-Woods showdown will have to wait until the March 20--23 Bay
Hill Invitational. "I would've liked to have seen an Ernie-Tiger
final too--had I not been playing in the tournament," Tataurangi
says, grinning. He smiles again when asked about his plans for
that evening. "I hadn't planned on playing tomorrow," he admits.
"I've got to go iron another shirt."
THURSDAY Defending champion Kevin Sutherland, viewed as a one-hit
wonder last year when he came out of the woodwork for his first
Tour win, barely qualified this year. (His World Ranking of 60th
made him the fifth-to-last seed.) But now that he's back, he
looks like a juggernaut, rolling over Europe's brightest young
stars. He stunned Sergio Garcia of Spain on Wednesday and in the
second round he pips England's Justin Rose, one up, despite
snap-hooking his tee shot so badly on the par-5 18th that his
ball almost winds up in the pond alongside the adjacent 1st
fairway. The 38year-old Sutherland punches out into the 1st
fairway, then hits a clutch six-iron onto the 18th green and
two-putts for a wrong-fairway par and the win. "I don't think
anyone else will play the hole from there," he says. "At least I
hope they don't. That was ugly."
Before Thursday's matches, ESPN analyst Andy North had predicted
that Chris Riley would upset Toms, and North's call is looking
good right up to the final green, where Toms wins one up by
holing a 90foot chip with a three-wood. Toms high-fives his
caddie, Scott Gneiser, and thanks North for providing "extra
FRIDAY It's old-timers' day, as Jay Haas, 49, squares off against
Nick Price, 46. There's a glitch, though. At the 14th hole both
players' drives hit La Costa's one blemish--the power lines that
cross 400 feet above the fairway--and they must replay them.
"That was the best drive I've hit in a month," Haas will say
later. When Price holes a clutch birdie putt at 18, the match
goes to extra holes. On the second, a par-3, Haas copies
Tataurangi's winning move from Wednesday, hitting a four-iron to
within six inches for a birdie that Price concedes. "You had to
hit it that close," Price tells him, "or I wasn't going to give
it to you."
Sutherland's run ends, 2 and 1, against 22year-old Adam Scott of
Australia. Sutherland thinks Scott could win the tournament, but
John Wood, Sutherland's caddie, is more impressed by Woods's two
eagles in a 7and-6 rout of Stephen Leaney. "The Man is on a
mission this week," Wood says, nodding solemnly. "He looks
SATURDAY Gritty veteran Scott Hoch is the second-hottest player
left in the field. Applying unofficial stroke-play scoring, Woods
is 16 under through 58 holes, and Hoch is next at nine under for
62. Doesn't matter. Hoch makes four birdies against Woods and
still doesn't reach the 15th tee, losing 5 and 4 when Woods,
wielding his fearsome A game, goes eight under. "I'm glad this
didn't happen in the first round," says Hoch, "or I would've been
really ticked off."
A birdie-birdie-eagle run starting at the 9th helps Scott beat
Haas 2 and 1, but the Australian seems unnerved by Woods's
performance. "How am I going to beat him?" Scott says. "He's just
shot eight under for 14 holes. I don't think I've gotten around
this course under par yet."
Still, in the afternoon Scott plays Woods closer than anyone
would all week, although he hands the W to Woods on the 20th hole
by missing the cup completely from 2 1/2 feet. Meanwhile Toms,
after a lopsided win over Jerry Kelly in the morning, holes a
12-footer for birdie on 18 to finally finish off Australia's Peter
Lonard, who one-putts nine of the last 11 greens to stay close.
SUNDAY Toms is a little shaky with the putter early in the 36hole
final--he thinks it might be because of the allergy pill he took
before teeing off--and is four down at the break. "I was trying
to find some game," says Toms, who joins Woods for lunch in the
clubhouse, "and I guess I finally found it in a turkey sandwich."
The results from the turkey are far better than his reaction to
the chicken and shrimp he had on Thursday night at a restaurant
that he declines to name. That meal gave him a case of food
poisoning so severe that Gneiser had to drive him to an area
hospital at one in the morning. Yet Toms somehow squeaked past
Alex Cejka, one up, in the third round. "It serves me right,"
Toms would say that evening. "I didn't pay for my food. The
manager gave us free coupons."
Toms looks more like the hero he was at the Ryder Cup during
Sunday's second 18. Woods birdies the first hole to go 5 up, but
Toms slowly whittles Woods's lead to one after 29 holes. That's
as close as Toms gets, and an errant drive into the right rough
at the 35th hole finishes him off. When the interviews are over
in the press tent, Toms, looking for a ride to the clubhouse,
asks about the van that had brought him there. It's being held
for Woods. Toms shakes his head and jumps into a nearby golf
cart. "No respect," he says. "No respect."
SINCE ITS inception in 1999, surprises have been the order of the
day in the first round of the Match Play Championship. Here are
this year's biggest opening-day shockers. (Seeding in
FLOP WINNER SCORE
WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?
ELS (2) TATAURANGI (63) 20 Holes
Once the world's hottest player, Els is now merely the world's
weariest, having played in tournaments in Australia, Hawaii,
China, California and the United Arab Emirates in the last two
months. What was his travel agent thinking?
GOOSEN (4) HAAS (61) 5 and 3
The poor man's Els, Goosen was barely off the plane from the
Malaysian Open when he was dusted by a 49-year-old who made five
birdies in 14 holes. Attention, Champions tour: There'll be a new
sheriff in town next year.
GARCiA (5) SUTHERLAND (60) 2 and 1
Clearly saddled with some swing issues this season, Garcia
nonetheless was three up with six holes to go against the
defending champ. Then came a spectacular nosedive as he lost five
DIMARCO (9) IZAWA (56) 2 and 1
There's a good chance you haven't heard of this guy...and we're
not talking about Izawa. What happened to the stud who last year
won in Phoenix and led the Masters after two rounds? Hint: He hit
only seven greens in regulation at La Costa.
HOWELL (20) FASTH (45) One Up
After a busy West Coast swing highlighted by a playoff loss the
week before in L.A., Howell was due for a letdown. Almost
predictably, CH3's putting was the first thing to go.
MONTGOMERIE (11) CEJKA (54) 4 and 2
This one's not as surprising as it looks. Monty has never been
Mr. Wednesday--he's 1--4 in the Match Play. Plus, there was an
upside: He wasn't around long enough to hear it from the fans.
BEEM (23) LOWERY (42) 2 Up
Billed as a rematch of the thrilling final of the 2002
International, this match was just the opposite, degenerating
into a game of Who Can Play Worse? The winner: Beemer, as the PGA
champ made two double bogeys during a newspaper 77.
DUVAL (28) ROSE (37) 20 Holes
After a dismal 2002, Duval's season is shaping up as A Lost
Year--The Sequel. Double D dropped the 18th hole to Rose's
birdie, three-putted the 19th to let Rose off the hook, then lost
one hole later.
Jose Maria Justin
OLAZABAL (49) LEONARD (16) 2 Up
A delicious Ryder Cup redux was more of an embarrassing
bogeyrama. Even though Ollie shot a brutal 42 on the front nine,
Leonard had to go the distance to get the ugly W.
his upset of Els. "I've got to go iron another shirt."